Talk about a roller coaster ride of emotions.
Shortly after hitting a walk-off home run against the Atlanta Braves, the Philadelphia Phillies made a somewhat-bold decision by sending left fielder/first baseman Darin Ruf to Triple-A, according to CSN Philly's Jim Salisbury.
Ruf, 26, took the Phillies' organization (and Minor League Baseball as a whole, for that matter) by storm in 2012 when he posted a slash line of .317/.408/.620 with 38 home runs for Double-A Reading. He didn't miss a beat when the Phillies called him up in September, hitting .333/.351/.727 with three home runs over 12 games.
Moving into the offseason, Ruf was expected to play a big role for the Phillies going forward. He spent the end of the season getting his feet wet in left field before playing the outfield in the Venezuelan winter league.
It was somewhat of a desperate decision by the Phillies, who were certainly not looking to move Ruf into the outfield for his glove. The idea was to get his bat in the lineup and let the cards fall where they may defensively.
If spring training has been any indication, that isn't going to be as simple as it sounds.
Ruf has been nothing short of miserable in the outfield throughout camp. He has gotten bad reads on balls off of the bat, taken bad routes and completely misjudged certain hits. There was a gradual improvement as the spring progressed, but the one thing that the Phillies actually wanted never showed up: The bat.
The Phillies would only tolerate his poor defense if Ruf could produce offensively—something he had not done consistently throughout the spring, going 14-for-57 with six doubles and a pair of home runs.
By sending him to Triple-A, the Phillies are playing it safe with Ruf. He'll open the season in Lehigh Valley, where he'll have an opportunity not only to continue learning how to play left field on a regular basis, but to settle in against minor league pitching.
With Delmon Young already playing in minor league games, the Phillies clearly feel as though outfielders like John Mayberry Jr. and Laynce Nix can hold down the fort until he is ready. Domonic Brown has all but won a job. Something had to give.
Ruf will head to Lehigh Valley as the Phillies' "plan B." He'll be available in the event of an injury or if Young simply can't handle the strain of playing the outfield on a regular basis.
Is this the right decision?
Well, that's a matter of opinion. Ruf certainly didn't do much to help his cause this spring and the only opinion that really matters at this point is that of the Phillies, and they have clearly spoken.
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