With Howard on bench, Ruf seeing more action

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With Howard on bench, Ruf seeing more action

It’s been two days since Darin Ruf was recalled from Triple A Lehigh Valley and already there are plenty of questions about the Phillies’ future at first base.

For the second straight game, Ruf started at first as Ryan Howard was relegated to the bench. The 27-year-old went 1 for 4 with a single and a strikeout in a 2-1 Phillies win over the Giants (see game recap).

Have the past two games just been Ryne Sandberg’s attempt to help Howard clear his head? Or is the Phillies manager seriously considering moving on from the former All-Star?

Prior to the game, Sandberg used the word “platoon” in reference to Howard for the first time (see story). Afterwards, he said he met with Howard earlier in the day to clear the air about why he was sitting out for the second straight game.

“I just wanted to let him know about having a right-hander (Tim Hudson) out there that he’s had success against and I wanted to get Darin a number of at-bats before we go forward here,” Sandberg said. “[We’ll] go with the schedule and the matchups as we go.

“Ryan wants to be in there. I totally expect that and we’ll go forward and make a lineup.”

While seeing Howard sit out multiple games in a row shouldn’t be a surprise given his recent and much-documented struggles (he has hit just .154 in July), it was still curious due to his history of success against Hudson. Howard has hit .328 with seven home runs and 17 RBIs in 67 career at-bats against the four-time All-Star.

Asked about whether he thought the benching would be permanent as he left the clubhouse, Howard responded, “Talk to him … bye, talk to the manager.”

With another left-hander on deck in Arizona’s Wade Miley, whoever Sandberg starts Friday against the Diamondbacks could be very telling. Not surprisingly, he declined to say whether a decision had been made.

Still, Sandberg was clear that the past two games have been more about getting Ruf experience than removing Howard.

“A benching ... no, it’s more a case of Darin just getting here and I wanted to take a look at him for at least a couple of games,” Sandberg said. “I want to see where he’s at because I haven’t seen him in a while."

For his part, Ruf seemed too busy adjusting to being back with the Phillies after almost two months in Lehigh Valley to worry about where he and Howard stand on the depth chart.

Having started for just the third and fourth times this season the past two days, Ruf knows it is way too early for him to think of himself as the heir apparent to Howard.

“I don’t know if I’m able to [replace Howard] because I have to go out there and prove it,” Ruf said. “First of all, it has to happen, and then I have to earn that position as well. It’s not just going to be given to me.”

2014 has been a rollercoaster year for Ruf. After generating a solid amount of buzz last season by slugging 14 home runs and 30 RBIs in 253 at-bats, things went south for him right from the jump this year.

First, there was the strained oblique that forced him to start the season in Lehigh Valley. Then, after being called up on May 21, Ruf received just 10 at-bats in seven games before being sent down again on June 1. He capped off a first half to forget by crashing into a wall while fielding a foul ball and straining his left wrist two days later.

Now, finally healthy, Ruf just wants to prove that he is a viable option for the Phillies moving forward. His single off of Hudson in the fourth inning was just his second hit of the season, his first being a home run against the Rockies on May 27.

“I faced a little bit of adversity this year so far with the couple of injuries I’ve gone through,” Ruf said. “I’m just looking to be healthy for these last two months and get at-bats."

Hits King Pete Rose on Phillies' Wall of Fame ballot

Hits King Pete Rose on Phillies' Wall of Fame ballot

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- The Phillies have released their Wall of Fame ballot for 2017 and Pete Rose is on it for the first time.

Baseball’s all-time hits king joins Steve Bedrosian, Larry Christensen, Jim Fregosi, Gene Garber, Placido Polanco, Ron Reed, Scott Rolen, Manny Trillo and Rick Wise on the ballot.

The Phillies had to receive permission from commissioner Rob Manfred to include Rose on the ballot. Rose was placed on baseball’s permanently ineligible list in 1989 after he admitted to wagering on baseball during his time as manager of the Cincinnati Reds. The ban precludes him from appearing on the ballot for the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York.

Rose is still on the ineligible list, but Manfred has shown some leniency in recent years and Rose has been able to participate in some ceremonies. He was inducted into the Cincinnati Reds' Hall of Fame last summer. 

Rose was one of the stars on the Reds’ Big Red Machine, a club that won back-to-back World Series in 1975 and 1976. He came to the Phillies as a free agent before the 1979 season. He spent five years with the Phils and his leadership was considered key in getting a talented team over the top on its way to winning the 1980 World Series. 

The Phillies’ Wall of Fame ceremony will take place Aug. 12 at Citizens Bank Park. 

Fans have a voice in the voting, which is has begun on the team’s website -- www.Phillies.com. Fans can select their top three choices and the five finalists will serve as the official ballot for a special Wall of Fame selection committee.

Phillies 6, University of Tampa 0: Prospects put on a show

Phillies 6, University of Tampa 0: Prospects put on a show

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- The Phillies offered up a sneak peek of their Triple A roster on Thursday and, frankly, it was kind of exciting.

Now, we won't go overboard here. That’s never a wise thing to do when a bunch of solid major-league prospects beat up on a college team in a spring training game. Lessons have been learned over the years. Remember that time Domonic Brown electrified camp when he turned around a 96-mph fastball from Justin Verlander and hammered it like a missile over the right-field wall?

Enough said.

But if things like home run power and bat speed and rocket throwing arms and good infield work light up your radar gun then this was a fun day and an entertaining peek at what's going to be playing 60 miles north of Philadelphia at Lehigh Valley in a few weeks.

Manager Pete Mackanin used a lineup filled with prospects for the team’s annual good-will exhibition game against the University of Tampa.

The Phillies won the game, 6-0. They out-hit UT, 12-2, in the seven-inning game.

“This gave us home-field advantage for next year when we play these guys,” Mackanin quipped afterward.

The skipper was in a good mood and justifiably so.

The kids put on a good show.

“I know it’s a college team, but we looked good all around,” Mackanin said. “We swung the bats well. We played well defensively.”

The Phillies' farm system has improved over the last couple of seasons. There are players at the upper levels -- and even more at the lower levels -- with game-breaking tools. Those tools were displayed in this game.

• Centerfielder Roman Quinn singled and scorched a line-drive home run over the right-field wall. Quinn is working on shortening his swing this spring. The home run came on a quick swing and jumped off his bat.

• Scott Kingery, the 22-year-old second baseman picked by the Phillies in the second round of the 2015 draft, made three nice plays in the field, one to his right, one to his left and one on a double-play ball. He actually projects to open at Double A, but could be a quick mover. Jesmuel Valentin projects to play at Triple A. He's been bothered by a sore shoulder.

• Outfielder Nick Williams was hitless but drove the ball well.

• Dylan Cozens, the lefty-hitting behemoth who swatted 40 homers, the most in all of minor-league ball, for Double A Reading last season clubbed a long home run over the batter’s eye in center field.

“Ryan Howard is the only guy I’ve ever seen do that,” one longtime security guard at Spectrum Field said.

“The ball makes a different sound coming off his bat,” Mackanin observed.

• Top prospect J.P. Crawford booted a ball in the first inning, but that happens. He came across the second base bag like a blur when he teamed with Kingery in turning a double play.

• Andrew Pullin showed his sweet lefty stroke with a scorching base hit to right field. It was one of those line drives that nose-dived into the ground because it had so much hard top-spin on it. Pullin has a short, Jim Eisenreich type of swing, and it will carry him to the big leagues someday, maybe even this year as he would be an intriguing bat to have coming off the bench.

• And then there was catcher Jorge Alfaro. Power -- with his throwing arm and his bat -- is his big tool. He showed it gunning down a would-be base stealer with a laser-beam throw to second and later by lining a pitch off the top of the wall in right-center. Alfaro seemed to simply flick his wrists and drive the ball through a stuff wind. With no wind, it was a homer.

Again, all of this came against a college team. All of these prospects still have miles to go in their development and the rigors of the unforgiving baseball schedule, not to mention pitching that improves with every step, has a way of thinning the field.

But these prospects -- and their tools -- impressed the field boss.

“If they go to Triple A and pound the ball like they did today -- that’s what we’re hoping for,” Mackanin said. “It was a good day to give those guys some confidence. We want to see what they can do and what they can’t do. It was against a college team, but you can get a good glimpse of the future, see what they’re capable of doing. I’m going to try to see the young guys as much as I can early in the spring.

“It’s really encouraging to see these guys. Every one of them has very good potential, more than I’ve seen since I’ve been here.

“I was talking to Charlie Manuel (who sees the entire system in his front office role) before the game and he said up and down the system we have a lot of good players. Perhaps not necessarily blue-chip prospects but enough where you know some of them are going to make their way to the top and this is a good start with what we’re looking at right now.”