With Chase Utley on the disabled list and Ryan Howard on the precipice of injury with his hurting left knee, there has been an outcry from some fans for the Phillies to call up Darin Ruf. To some, the Ruthian-type hero from last year who blasted 20 home runs in one month, and 51 between three leagues is the obvious choice for a team which so desperately needs an offensive boost. But to others, his recent 0-for-21 slump warrants some more minor league seasoning before joining the Phils.
In talking with Ruf today at Lehigh Valley, it was clearly evident that he, nor anyone else, is particularly worried about his recent skid. He does not feel like it is a mechanical issue, pressure to perform, or a lack of confidence at the plate. In fact, Ruf is extremely sure of his abilities and makes absolutely nothing of his struggles of late. To him, it is just the natural ebb and flow of the game.
Here is some of what he had to say about dealing with his slump:
“Everybody struggles in baseball at some point. In a six-month season you’re going to go 0-for-20, 0-for-30- that just happens. You just have to shorten [the slumps] and try to get into a rhythm as quickly as possible.”
“You just have to stay positive and just have to keep working and doing the same things day in and day out that you have been doing all year and the things that have made you successful in the past, and try to get back to that…A key hit or something like that could trigger prolonged success, but more so just maintaining your routine and not straying from the stuff you are doing.”
“In baseball, if you are not getting better you are getting worse. You have to put what happened in the past behind you and try to get better, try to work hard every day to ultimately get to the big leagues and help the team win there.”
He talked about a lot more, such as squaring up balls and not being worried about power numbers, but these were the parts I wanted to get at.
What does all this mean?
It means that he needs to keep getting out there, playing every day and getting at bats to work his way out of his rough patch. He thinks if he can get out there and find a routine and stay consistent with his approach, he can heat up at any time. And he really could, it could happen in the blink of an eye. Remember, Ruf hit .262 last July and had some 0-fers, which is not terribly better than his .256 average this May. But remember what happened once July 2012 came to an end? He hit .370 with 20 homers and 36 RBI in August.
The point is, if Ruf will be an every day player with the Phillies and get at bats consistently, it makes sense to have him up there. It may not be so much where he is playing, as much as making sure he is playing to help him break out this year. However, if he is going to only start once in a while and have his only at bats late in games, perhaps in tough situations against tough relievers, it might not do him or the Phillies any good. And while Howard is playing, there really is no spot for him to start every day. It would be tough to use him in left, because then you have two sub-par, slower outfielders at the corners, and Domonic Brown in center (where he struggled mightily in Lehigh Valley last year).
Keep Ruf in Lehigh Valley…for now. Once he starts swinging a hot bat, give him a shot. Especially if Howard needs to miss any chunk of time or if (when?) Delmon Young continues to be as unimpressive both offensively and defensively as he has been.