Mashing your first hit, first RBI, first home run — those are all steps toward bona fide MLBdom.

Being the subject of some good ol’ fashioned rookie hazing, though, might be the first tiptoe.

Welcome to the bigs, Darin Ruf.

“Lerud busted out his Babe Ruf t-shirt that the Reading Phillies had been selling,” he said Monday, hours after the Phillies selected his contract from Double-A Reading . “He was waiting for that moment for a while.”

As was Ruf for this one. Didn’t want it to go down like it did; Ruf grounded into a double play to end the R-Phils season and officially clear his schedule Saturday, and said he was pretty hard on himself about it.

But something (someone?) is telling me he’ll get over it.

“He had a big smile on his face when I walked in,” Ruf said of his first-ever meeting with Manuel. “But I think mine was probably a little bit bigger than his.”

Manuel called Ruf a definite pinch-hitting option for Monday’s series opener with the Marlins, and said he might even get some run in left field.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the Phillies have walked up 16 pinch-hitters since rosters expanded Sept. 1, and rank first in the bigs in pinch-hit average (.438), hits (seven) and RBIs (six) over that span.

No pressure, though, kid.

“You can try to (control your emotions),” Ruf said. “But I think when you’re in the moment you just have to soak it in and enjoy it. Your first at-bat only happens once.”

The consensus on what that first at-bat, and the presumed ones he’ll earn with it, seems to be that Ruf, who crushed 39 home runs (20 in August) and stuck a 1.029 OPS en route to earning Eastern League MVP honors, will do just fine.

But how about with a glove? How about in left field?

Manuel said that, despite the seeming conventional wisdom that Ruf, listed at 6’3, 220 lbs and most familiar with the post Ryan Howard mans, would struggle as a corner outfielder, he’s actually heard that Ruf may prove functional.

Ruf said he’d gotten about 20 games of left field work in August, and feels good about it.

“Every time I get out there I get a little more comfortable.”

How comfortable is comfortable enough?

“There’s an old saying, and I’d say it holds true now more than anything,” Manuel said.

“If you can hit, then we’ll find a place for you. That old saying goes a long way.”

And figures to, starting tonight.

Matter of fact, Manuel said he thought long and hard about giving Ruf the start against lefthander Chris Wilson, but ultimately decided against it, thinking he’d rather see Ruf shag some fly balls and take a few swings of BP before inserting him in the action and remembering how well Ty Wigginton has fared against lefties lately.

Later, though, Manuel hinted that it might be best to let Ruf settle in among his peers before parading him around in a starting role and anointing him the team’s next big thing.

“I think that after you let him get a good feel for where he’s at on the team and everything like that, I’m gonna play him some.”

Considering Lerud’s gag and Manuel’s forecast, Ruf must be settling in well then.

***

Lineup:

1. Rollins, SS

2. Mayberry, CF

3. Utley, 2B

4. Howard, 1B

5. Wigginton, LF

6. Brown, RF

7. Kratz, C

8. Martinez, 3B

9. Kendrick, P