By Mary Cunningham
Someone in the Phillies’ feckless organization has a grudge against Darin Ruf.
For whatever reasons he has started only 145 games over the past four seasons. He joined the Phillies late in 2012, following a monstrous season with Double-A Reading. He has searched for a place to play ever since, playing a little left field, a little at first base and even some right field whenever the opportunity presented itself.
But playing time has come more frequently for Ruf recently, who went 3-for-5 with a three-run home run and a career-high six RBIs in Tuesday night’s 14-8 victory over the Mets at Citi Field. It was the first time a Phillies hitter had six or more RBIs in a game since Delmon Young had six on June 28, 2013.
“I had some good opportunities to drive in some runs and took advantage,” Ruf said.
Ruf has started seven of the Phillies’ 15 games at first base since Aug. 16, including the only six the Phillies have started against left-handers. He has hit .286 (8-for-28) with one double, three home runs and 11 RBIs in those seven starts.
“I’ve thought that was my role for the last two years,” Ruf said about playing against left-handers. “Just because that’s who I mainly played against last year when I was healthy. Maybe this year I got a few more opportunities against righties, but for the most part I was in there every day against lefties. I’ve just really focused on taking advantage when I’m in there against lefties. I’ve been lucky to play well when I have been in there.”
It sounds like Ruf will continue to start against left-handers the rest of the season, too.
Phillies interim manager Pete Mackanin has talked with Ryan Howard about his playing time, telling the slugger he plans to play him predominantly against right-handers the rest of the way. Howard’s .621 OPS against left-handers from 2012-15 is 231st out of 253 qualified hitters in baseball. He has a .443 OPS in 101 plate appearances against them this season.
But could it mean anything for next season? Howard is signed through 2016. He will make $25 million in salary, plus he will earn a $10 million buyout on a 2017 club option. The Phillies have tried to trade him, but found little to no interest before the Aug. 31 waiver trade deadline.
Because the Phillies have no first base prospects knocking on the door, it is not a stretch to think Howard and Ruf could share time at first base next season, too.
“That’s not a bad option,” Mackanin said.
“That’s a question for the future and probably not for me, that’s for sure,” Ruf said. “Anyway I can get a job, I’ll take it.”