READING, Pa. — Like you, Carlos Ruiz has found watching Phillies games on TV difficult. And maybe like you he has come up with a few rituals to help the team get together when things aren’t going so well.
When watching at home, Ruiz says he’ll get up and leave the room hoping that when he returns he’ll return to a rally.
So far this season, Ruiz hasn’t walked in to see much action.
“A couple of games I would leave the room and hope when I come back there would be a big rally,” Ruiz said before Friday night’s penultimate tune-up game at FirstEnergy Stadium with Double A Reading. “This is the way I could help the team from my apartment.”
The Phillies are hoping that will all change on Sunday when Ruiz’s 25-game suspension is lifted and he can return to action. During the winter it was announced that Ruiz had tested positive for amphetamines. Ruiz was taking Adderall, a prescription drug used to treat attention-deficit disorder. The Phils’ catcher could have taken the drug with no repercussion if he had cleared it with Major League Baseball.
In other words, Ruiz was technically suspended for not doing paperwork.
“It’s something I don’t want to talk about,” Ruiz said. “It’s over now.
He didn’t say if it was a drug he still used.
“The medication didn’t do anything for me because I know that I worked really hard,” Ruiz said. “That’s what I’m doing for this season, too. I’m ready and we’re going to see what happens.”
In the meantime, Ruiz has been getting ready for his return with an extra long spring training. At the team’s complex in Clearwater, Fla., Ruiz has played in some extended spring games as well as a couple of games for Single A Clearwater. Before rejoining the team in New York on Sunday, Ruiz will play for Double A Reading starting with Friday night’s game at FirstEnergy Stadium.
Friday night, Ruiz went 0 for 4 at the plate with a pair of fly outs, a ground out and a line out in Reading’s 3-1 loss to New Hampshire. He also caught all nine innings, where he worked with Reading’s starting pitcher Tom Cochran as he tossed 4 2/3 innings in which he allowed three runs on four hits and four walks.
It was a shaky outing from Cochran that could have been much worse.
After Ruiz and Reading’s manager Dusty Wathan visited the mound with the bases loaded, two outs and New Hampshire cleanup hitter Ryan Schimpf coming to the plate, Cochran got out of the jam with a strikeout.
So even working with a pitcher for the first time is enough for Ruiz to coax a little something extra from the hurler. It’s that type of work, along with the bat, that the Phillies desperately want back in the lineup.
“Ruiz is a huge part of our team,” Cliff Lee said after Thursday’s loss to the Pirates. “He was obviously our best player last year. Getting him back can only help — his bat, his game-calling, his leadership behind the plate is definitely something that can help us, no doubt.”
At 10-14, the Phillies need all the help they can get. At the plate, the Phillies are 13th in the league in on-base percentage (.301), 10th in slugging (.378 with 16 homers) and 11th in runs (3.47 per game). The team’s catchers — Erik Kratz and Humberto Quintero — were batting a combined .215 with 20 strikeouts in 83 plate appearances heading into Friday.
Meanwhile, Ruiz batted .303 over the last three seasons, including a career-best .325 last season. In 114 games in 2012, Ruiz hit 16 homers with 68 RBIs and a robust .935 OPS.
Additionally, Kratz hasn’t seemed to mesh well with some of the starters. Roy Halladay pitches almost exclusively to Quintero and Cole Hamels told reporters after an outing that he and Kratz had a few communication issues.
Perhaps Ruiz’s absence could be best illustrated by an ERA that is third-worst in the National League (4.45) and the most runs allowed in the league.
See why it’s been tough for Ruiz to watch?
“It was a little hard for me,” Ruiz said. “I definitely want to be with the team to help the ball club win some games. I’m thankful that it’s almost over and I can’t wait to get back with the team in New York.”
How quickly can Ruiz shake the rust when he gets back out there? Manager Charlie Manuel likely won’t waste much time getting Ruiz back in the lineup, looking for a way — any way — to jumpstart his team.
Ruiz says he’s going to be ready to go.
“I feel good. I played a lot of games in extended spring,” Ruiz said. “I feel good and I’m excited about the way my body feels right now.”
That could be just what the Phillies need right about now.