Carlos Ruiz staying sharp in Florida as return date nears

Carlos Ruiz staying sharp in Florida as return date nears

April 11, 2013, 9:00 am
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Barring rainouts, Carlos Ruiz' suspension will end on April 28, when the Phils play a Sunday afternoon game against the Mets. (AP)

Carlos Ruiz is out of sight but certainly not out of mind.

While the Phillies have played their first nine games of the regular season, Ruiz has remained in Clearwater, Fla., where he continues to serve a 25-game suspension for testing positive for a banned stimulant last September.

Barring rainouts, Ruiz’ suspension will end April 28, when the Phillies play a Sunday afternoon game against the Mets in New York.

Ruiz will be eligible to play in official minor-league games five days before his suspension ends. According to GM Ruben Amaro Jr., Ruiz will likely play in a couple of games for the Single A Clearwater Threshers before coming north and possibly playing in two more at Double A Reading on April 26 and 27 before joining the Phillies in New York the next day. That is the tentative plan, barring any setbacks or unforeseen developments.

The Phillies have a slew of young minor-leaguers in Clearwater awaiting assignment to the New York-Penn League or Gulf Coast League, so Ruiz is able to get plenty of work in unofficial, extended spring-training games.

“He’s getting a lot of at-bats,” said Benny Looper, the Phils assistant GM who oversees scouting and player development. “He’s getting a lot of reps behind the plate. He’s doing well.”

“All the reports are thumbs-up,” Amaro said.

Ruiz is catching some big-armed young pitchers, some who haven’t learned to harness their stuff yet. That’s not a bad thing for a catcher trying to stay sharp.

“It’s easier to catch the higher you go up,” Looper said. “So he’s getting a challenge.”

In Ruiz’ absence, the Phils are using Erik Kratz and Humberto Quintero behind the plate. One will have to be subtracted when Ruiz returns. Kratz has minor-league options remaining, but he may have earned the right to be Ruiz’ backup with his work last season. Quintero would have to clear waivers to be sent to the minors.