The Darin Ruf Option

Despite the Phillies series split in Arizona over the weekend, there doesn't seem to be too much optimism surrounding the team, especially as it pertains to the offense. While the team has pitched well enough lately, the bats haven't contributed, leaving some to wonder whether or not it's time to make a change, specifically as it pertains to calling up Darin Ruf, the power-hitting OF/1B who burst onto the radar last season with a monster year in the minor leagues.

So, should the Phillies call him up? The short answer: no. The long answer: also no.

I was as big a Darin Ruf fan as anyone last year, and once it was readily apparent that the Phillies were not bound for the playoffs (and by that I mean the middle of July), then I was of the mindset that there was no reason not to call him up. He was destroying minor league pitching with reckless abandon, and there is quite possibly no better environment to see whether or not Ruf – who was less a prospect and more a guy who took advantage of leagues with less experienced pitchers – could compete at the highest levels of the game.

That question was sort of answered when the Phillies finally did call Ruf up in the middle of September, where he made his big league debut. In 12 games, he belted three home runs, knocked in ten runs, and had a nice looking line of .333/.351/.727 as he was able to roll his minor league success over to The Show. Now, I said “sort of answered” because 12 games is a very tiny sample size, and the game is full of guys who hit really well for half a month before returning to their replacement level status. That's not to take anything away from Ruf, but you certainly can't hand him a starting spot on the team based on 33 at-bats in September.

But the Phillies did give Ruf plenty of time to prove himself a worthy starter during spring training. And despite coming to life towards the end of March, they ultimately sent him back down to Triple-A Lehigh Valley, where he has since continued his mashing ways, with a .294/.372/.500 line with five homers in 34 at-bats with the Iron Pigs.

The question, now, is whether or not the Phillies should call him up. With an offense that is struggling to score runs, it might make sense to insert him into the lineup in hopes that it would provide the team enough lift to turn those 3-2 losses into 5-3 wins. While that might sound like a good idea, the fact is that the Phillies have no room for him on the team as it is currently staffed.

By trade, Darin Ruf is a first baseman, but he is blocked by Ryan Howard, who isn't going to be benched, no matter how badly he plays. However, if Charlie wanted to platoon Howard and Ruf, well, that wouldn't be the worst idea in the world.

And even though Ruf has been working in the outfield, he won't have much luck breaking in there either. Considering that Domonic Brown is the everyday left fielder (like it or not, Brown isn't going anywhere), and that Ruf would be an outright disaster in either center or in right field, there isn't anywhere to put him. Despite RF Delmon Young's early struggles, there is little chance they'd favor Ruf over the veteran.

Realistically, it's going to take an injury or some catastrophically bad play from someone in order for Ruf to get a shot on the team in the not-too-distant future unless Bud Selig decides to install the designated hitter in the National League.

So while the offense is struggling right now, don't hold your breath for Darin Ruf.

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