Drew Hallowell/Getty Images
Darin Ruf looked very good at the plate on Friday. He was 2-for-4, reaching on an error, drawing a walk, hitting a single and scoring three runs, including a monstrous walk-off homer that hit the roof of the Tiki bar in left at Bright House Field.
Thirty minutes after his walk-off shot, Ruf was optioned to Triple-A Lehigh Valley in order to get him regular reps in left field so that he can iron out his defensive issues. He looked better than I've seen him in left, with his shaky moments being somewhat less shaky than they were at the beginning of the spring. Nevertheless, he has a long way to go, and it's the right move to send him down and let him get comfortable in left.
Early panic about Papelbon's early outings was probably unwarranted. He's put in three straight scoreless performances now, and Friday was one of his best yet. He struck out one and induced a fly ball to center and a grounder to short. Even better was that that performance came in a non-save situation, which caused Papelbon problems a year ago. Fans can probably expect the usual for Papelbon this year.
Brown was only 1-for-5 Friday, but he continues to look much stronger than he has in years past, both offensively and defensively. He came into the day slugging .714. It's a significant stat, because statistician John Dewan has determined that players who exceed their career slugging percentage by 200 or more points in spring training exceed their career average in the regular season 60 percent of the time.
Brown is currently outstripping his big league career mark—.388— by nearly 350 points. Dewan's theory has held true on eight of 12 Phillies who have met the criterion since 2005. Two of the four who failed to exceed their slugging percentages in the regular season were bench players, and another—Jim Thome in 2005—was hurt midseason and missed the rest of the year. If Brown makes it nine of 13, it could go a long way toward relieving the pressure on the Phillies offense.
Morgan was given a surprise call-up from minor league camp to start Friday, and the top prospect (he's either top-five or just outside, depending on who you listen to) had a strong day.
He cruised through an Atlanta lineup that brought a good deal of its regulars to Bright House Field before running into trouble in the fifth and eventually being removed for Chad Durbin after four and two-thirds innings.
The 2011 third-round pick had a 3.35 ERA and struck out 9.6 per nine innings between Single-A and Double-A last year. It was an encouraging performance for the youngster from Alabama and gives fans hope for the future with questions surrounding top pitchers like Roy Halladay.
Kratz was the offensive hero for the Phils until Ruf's game-winner. The catcher doubled twice and hit a solo homer to kick off a two-run eighth that tied the game at six.
He drove in three runs total and looked more like the player who capably replaced Carlos Ruiz last season than the one who struggled below the Mendoza line through Philadelphia's September comeback attempt.
With Carlos Ruiz suspended 25 games to start the year, Kratz's production is crucial for the Phils' attack. Friday was an encouraging sign that the journeyman backstop can shoulder the load until Chooch's return.