NEW YORK — Phillies players were greeted by a message from Carlos Ruiz when they entered the visiting clubhouse at Citi Field on Friday.
“I will miss all of you guys. Good luck the rest of the season. Love you all, Chooch! Gracias,” (see story).
Ruiz did not actually write those words on the whiteboard by the entry to the clubhouse, but they were his. He reached out to visiting clubhouse manager Tony Carullo and asked that the message be written in just that way.
Ruiz, 37, was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers on Thursday, ending an 11-season run with the Phillies that included five NL East titles, a World Series championship, an All-Star Game, a slew of clutch hits, many words of praise from the pitching staff and a million calls of Choooooch from fans in the stands (see story).
“Everybody loved Chooch for a number of reasons,” manager Pete Mackanin said. “He’s the kind of guy you loved seeing every day, a hard-working, humble and appealing human being.
“I’d like to think when he’s done playing, the Phillies might have a place for him.”
Mackanin paused and laughed.
“As long as they don’t make him manager and he takes my job.”
Ruiz’s exit leaves Ryan Howard as the only member of the 2008 World Series championship team still with the club. Over the last few seasons, Howard has seen Jayson Werth, Shane Victorino, Jimmy Rollins, Cole Hamels and Chase Utley depart.
It’s a topic that Howard seems to have grown weary of talking about.
“I've had to hear about it every year,” he said. “It's again the same thing. You play with guys your entire career and now you see them in different uniforms. It's definitely going to be something to get used to but that's baseball. That's the business aspect of it. Teams make moves and that's what happens.”
Like the rest of the core of that team, Howard, 36, has been available for trade the last few seasons, but there has been no real interest because of his decline in performance and huge salary.
So he will play out the final six weeks of his contract and try to hook on elsewhere next season.
Howard saluted his former teammate, Ruiz.
“I'm trying to think of the right words,” he said.
“The thing about Chooch — he was the quarterback in a sense. The way he handled the pitching staff, the way he prepared himself for games with the pitchers, from the defensive standpoint knowing different situations, knowing what guy you want to beat you, what guy you don't want to beat you. Just the way he played the game, he was a fireball. He was a fireball out there. I'm definitely going to miss him. I hit him up yesterday a little bit after I found out. I was happy for him and wanted to wish him the best.
“Chooch, he was always very, very positive. Always trying to help guys out, trying to pick guys up when he can and it carried over onto the field. That was his mentality.”
The Phillies acquired veteran backup catcher A.J. Ellis, minor-league pitcher Tommy Bergjans and a player to be named later for Ruiz (see story). Ellis is due to join the team Saturday. In the meantime, the Phillies added prospect Jorge Alfaro from Double A (see story). He will be the backup catcher Friday night, then return to a talent-rich Reading club that has the best record in minor-league baseball and a date with the Eastern League playoffs.