Ruiz Returns From DL: Start Your Stopwatch
PHILADELPHIA—A relaxed Carlos Ruiz slumped in the cushy, rotating chair parked in front of his locker. He peeked at his cell phone, then his iPad. A few minutes passed. He rose, grabbed a bat and headed for the batting cages.
With the Phillies catcher’s activation from the DL Tuesday, two clocks are ticking.
Well, one clock, with two different contexts.
The first: Can Ruiz help prevent the team from "selling" at the July 31 trade deadline?
The second: Can he perform well enough to make himself worth being "sold"?
Both are significant. Clearly the organization would prefer keeping together its core in the spirit of “One Last Push.” But if their standing fails to justify doing so, the task becomes ensuring such is not life in the future. Trades, namely of a catcher with an unparalleled resume of handling a pitching staff, help accomplish that.
One way to help on both fronts is batting Ruiz eighth, where he’ll hit tonight.
“Putting him there, right now, we’re just going to let him get some at-bats,” manager Charlie Manuel said. “On nights where we have a good night, he’ll get four at-bats. On nights where we’re struggling to get runs, he’ll get three probably. We’ll see where he’s at.”
It’s the same spot where Ben Revere was shielded from pressure after struggling as the team’s newly-minted leadoff hitter. Pressure from fans. Pressure from himself. Ruiz has taken on little of the former – even after earning a 25-game Adderall ban this winter – but applied much of the latter, according to Manuel. It may be the more detrimental kind.
Ruiz’s offensive ability is still TBD. He can’t be expected to replicate the gaudy numbers he posted during a breakout, if enhanced, 2012 season. But that Ruiz has been healthy for only 16 games and 52 at-bats makes it tough to gauge what he can offer. If he is who he was between 2009-11, a .281 hitter with exceptional on-base ability and modest pop, the Phillies would be thrilled.
“He’ll be able to get a big hit for you sometimes,” Manuel said.
Can he rediscover that ability within six weeks? We'll see.
The other way to help the Phillie cause will happen organically. Simply playing Ruiz means a defensive upgrade. That will be apparent both in and outside the organization.
“His defense and game-calling means a whole lot to us,” he said. “We’ve had some trouble with that.”
Chase Utley was scheduled to begin a rehab assignment at Double-A Reading tonight, Manuel said. Yesterday GM Ruben Amaro said Utley would need only a few rehab games.
Manuel was asked how he’ll manage starter Cliff Lee in the event of a delay. If one were to last 45 minutes or fewer, he said, Lee will return to the hill.
The Phillies have signed 2013 first-round rookie J.J. Crawford to a professional contract. He was selected at No. 16 overall, and is the cousin of Dodgers star Carl Crawford.