It has been more than seven weeks since the Phillies began their off-season, but for one player that wrapped up the 2013 season with the club that missed the postseason for the second consecutive year, it’s barely been seven days. Catcher Cameron Rupp made his major league debut with the Phils in September, but unlike most of his teammates his baseball activity for the year hadn’t ended when the MLB schedule was completed.
The 25-year-old reported to big league spring training with the Phillies in February. His promotion to the majors in September resulted in his season lasting roughly a month longer than the minor league schedule does. By the completion of the Phils’ regular season, Rupp had already endured his lengthiest baseball year to date by more than eight weeks. Despite that, Rupp wanted more time on the field.
The University of Texas product had been a 3rd round draft choice in 2010 and played more than 100 games in a pro season just once since then, when he was behind the dish for 104 contests for Class A Advanced Clearwater in 2012.
While Rupp’s in-game work load wasn’t increased heavily during the early portion of his 2013 season with Double-A Reading, as he shared playing time there with Mexican backstop Sebastian Valle, Rupp stayed busy, working with pitchers in their side sessions and striving to improve all aspects of his game, behind the dish and in the batter’s box. Much like it is for catchers at all developmental levels of baseball, a day off from the lineup isn’t often an actual day free of baseball activities or complete rest for his knees.
Rupp, honored to be included in the collection of players assigned to represent the Phillies in the Arizona Fall League, extended his 2013 baseball calendar by another five weeks by playing for the Peoria Javelinas. In 14 games there, Rupp posted a .278 average with four doubles, a triple, a home run and six RBI.
The time in the AFL was happily welcomed by Rupp, who wants every opportunity to excel that he can get.
“I enjoyed the fall league a lot,” Rupp said. “I was able to get some extra at bats as well as more time behind the plate.”
The Arizona Fall League is annually packed with loads of top prospects that often find themselves in the majors soon after. Rupp recognizes this and felt that the chance to play among this level of talent was advantageous to him.
“It was a great experience to face a lot of future MLB talent in the pitchers as well as the position players,” Rupp explained. “I felt like I was able to get better for sure. Especially behind the plate, catching guys, really, you’ve never caught, you learn to trust yourself in situations like that.”
Rupp was joined by other promising Phillies talents on the Peoria roster. Pitchers Ken Giles, Mike Nesseth, Austin Wright and Kyle Simon as well as outfielders Cameron Perkins and Aaron Altherr joined Rupp for some extended baseball action.
The six-foot-two 230-pounder entered 2013 with a .258 batting average, 19 homers and 212 RBI in 258 minor league games over three years. This past season, combined at Reading and Lehigh Valley, Rupp sported a familiar .258 average with 14 home runs and 45 RBI in 94 games. Additionally, Rupp batted .308 with a double and two RBI in four games with the big club.
When the 2013 regular season wrapped up the Phillies had a question mark penciled in behind the plate for next year. This week, though, the team signed 35-year-old catcher Carlos Ruiz to a three-year contract. What was a potentially promising situation for a younger guy who is trying to fill a vacancy on the big league roster quickly became a less appealing situation with the starting job now virtually locked in by the long-time Phils backstop who became a free agent following the season.
Asked if the news that Ruiz was re-signed and the fact that one less roster spot is available were disappointing in any way, Rupp’s answer was brief.
“Nope. Just looking forward to working with him again.”
Rupp has worked closely with Ruiz in spring training and while the former All-Star has made rehab appearances in the minors. The youngster now hopes to lock down the job as the veteran’s back up when pitchers and catchers report to spring training in Clearwater, FL on February 12th.