Some decisions are hard to explain and harder to defend. This is one of them.
The Phillies demoted Darin Ruf on Sunday (see story) before the Mets beat them, 4-3, in 11 innings (see Instant Replay). (Two bad teams in yet another extra-inning affair. Hooray baseball.)
Ruf isn’t eligible to return for 10 days (unless he replaces an injured player). It was sold as an unfortunate but necessary nod to the numbers. The Phillies played 14 innings on Friday. They played 14 innings on Saturday. That put them in a bad spot for Sunday’s slog against the Mets. The Phillies needed more arms. Fresh arms. Arms that might not detach from the shoulder and fall off if asked to throw even one more pitch.
Someone had to go down so someone else could come up. That part was understandable. The Ruf part was harder to comprehend.
Ruf was sent to Triple A and Jeff Manship was placed on the disabled list. That made room for the Phillies to recall Phillippe Aumont and purchase the contract of Cesar Jimenez. (Quick but necessary aside: I can’t believe Aumont didn’t save the day.)
After the loss, Ryne Sandberg said Mike Adams, Antonio Bastardo, Jake Diekman and Mario Hollands weren’t available to throw on Sunday because they all “pitched a lot in the last week to eight days.” Again, someone had to go down. But that someone didn’t have to be Ruf. It shouldn’t have been Ruf. So why was it Ruf?
“Just to get him a number of at-bats,” Sandberg said. Then: “He was the guy.”
Well, that clears it up.
Let’s look at the other potential candidates to be bundled off to Lehigh Valley. John Mayberry Jr. and Reid Brignac were out of options. Light-hitting Cesar Hernandez (.146/.222/.244) would have been a good choice, but he was the only reserve infielder on the roster and he was forced to start on Sunday after the two-day, 28-inning marathon.
Domonic Brown has options remaining. And he hasn’t had a good season. Brown entered Sunday hitting -- that’s a loose interpretation of the word -- .201/.260/.310 with just four home runs and 27 RBIs. Those numbers are so ugly that you should treat them like the sun and not stare directly at them. Even so, the Phillies were never going to send down Brown.
That left Ben Revere. And this is where it becomes hard to defend demoting Ruf.
Revere also has options remaining. They could have sent him down. It would have been impossible to tell he was gone. He’s practically invisible when he’s here -- unless he does something demonstrably awful, which happens more than anyone would like. On Saturday, that actually happened twice in the span of two innings.
In the 12th, Revere was asked to get a bunt down and move over Carlos Ruiz, who had begun the proceedings with a single to center. It’s not a lot to ask for a major leaguer, and it’s even less to ask of the typical leadoff man. But Revere, as we’ve learned, is not a typical leadoff man. He rarely walks (four all season). And he entered Sunday hitting .285 (not bad) with a .296 on-base percentage (so very awful). That ought to be impossible. So, naturally, he popped up on that bunt attempt.
In the 14th inning, Revere was asked to get another bunt down with Brignac on second, Ruiz on first and no outs. A second crack at it. Revere’s chance for redemption. No problem, right? Big problem. He messed it up again and offered a lame check swing before being called out on strikes. It was a tire fire of an at-bat except, no, that’s an insult to tires and fire and their combination.
Afterward, Revere said it was “frustrating.” He was talking about those missed opportunities, but he could have been describing the overall sensation of watching him play this season.
He doesn’t get on base. He doesn’t hit for power (that first career home run aside). And he’s had notable defensive struggles. Not to mention that the Phils already have an approximation of Revere on the roster in Tony Gwynn Jr. How can they possibly justify keeping two centerfielders that can’t hit?
If it’s a meritocracy, Revere would have been sent down a while ago. But it is not a meritocracy. Ruben Amaro Jr. traded for Revere and called him a “good, solid, controllable acquisition.” At every turn and failure, Amaro continues to ignore the evidence and protect Revere by keeping him on the club.
Meanwhile, Ruf can’t get an extended sniff. You wonder if he ever will. He’s 27 now. If he ever got a long look, a real look, he might turn out to be the consistent power hitter the Phillies need. Or he might be nothing special at all. We don’t know because he’s never given a chance. The same can’t be said for Revere. He’s gotten plenty of opportunities.
But, hey, Revere walked on four pitches in the fifth inning of Sunday’s game. So there’s that.