Ruben Amaro believes Carlos Ruiz is worth risk

ap-carlos-ruiz-slide.jpg

Ruben Amaro believes Carlos Ruiz is worth risk

Ruben Amaro Jr. made it pretty clear that he would have preferred something shorter than a three-year contract for catcher Carlos Ruiz. Amaro acknowledged that there were some battles in a “difficult” negotiation with Ruiz’s agent, Marc Kligman.

“But at the end of the day,” Amaro said, “the reality was this was the person we wanted to handle our pitching staff, so we moved forward.”

Amaro spoke these words during a hurried news conference to officially announce Ruiz’s new three-year, $26 million contract on Thursday night (see story). The news conference was hurried because Ruiz, a fan favorite since taking over the Phillies’ starting catching chores in 2007, had to hustle off for a Make A Wish visit with a young fan in South Jersey.

Ruiz was all smiles as he headed out the door.

“I’m happy,” he said. “Real happy. My goal when I got to the big leagues was finish my career here.”

Ruiz now has that chance. He turns 35 in January and the deal includes a club option for a fourth year.

Ruiz has missed time with back, hamstring, foot and oblique injuries in recent seasons. His health history and age has left many critics wondering how Amaro could justify guaranteeing three years on the contract. But with teams such as Boston and Colorado dangling two-year deals in front of Ruiz early in the free-agent season, Amaro felt he had to go to a third year to get his man.

The wisdom of that will play out in coming seasons.

“Clearly this is a commitment that will be scrutinized,” Amaro acknowledged.

“But when you start talking about this (catching) position and the dearth of quality at this position … I know that Chooch knows what it takes to be a championship-caliber player, to bring a championship to this city. We know that he’s caught the last pitch of the season and how important that is.

“And, really, with the marketplace with the way it was and with the ability he’s going to bring to the table -- he keeps himself in very good shape, he’s dedicated to the sport and his craft and he’s developed into one of the leaders of our club -- all those factors are part of the decision we made.

“Is it a risk to put three years into a catcher at this stage of his career? It can be, yes. But I think every signing is a risk, and we hope that he remains productive throughout the three years and perhaps more.”

Ruiz is confident he can do that.

“I know everybody says, ‘Third year,’" he said. “I feel great. I feel healthy and I’m strong.”

Ruiz had a poor first half in 2013. It started when he missed the first 25 games while serving a suspension for testing positive for using Adderall, an ADHD drug, without Major League approval in 2012. Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports recently cited an official from a team that had courted Ruiz as saying that the catcher has since taken the necessary medical steps and been cleared by MLB to take the prescription drug. Asked about the report at Thursday night’s news conference, Kligman said, “That’s not something I think is appropriate to address at this time.”

Ruiz rebounded in the second half of 2013 and hit .313 with five homers, 28 RBIs and an .860 OPS in his first 43 games after the all-star break before tailing off over the final days of the season as he battled a bruised left hand.

Ruiz had a career year in 2012 when he hit .325 with 16 homers and 68 RBIs in 114 games.

One of the Phillies’ stated goals in recent offseasons has been to get younger. That hasn’t happened this offseason. Amaro’s first two signings this offseason are high-mileage players. A week before bringing back Ruiz, Amaro signed 36-year-old rightfielder Marlon Byrd to a two-year, $16 million deal.

The Phillies have been forced to take age and health risks on the free-agent market because they either haven’t produced enough in-house talent to fill holes, or are not comfortable with that in-house talent. The team had long been looking for a right-handed hitting rightfielder and had Darin Ruf in-house, but Amaro basically ruled him out of consideration at the end of the 2013 season. That led to the targeting and signing of Byrd.

In fairness to the Phillies, they added three young players to the lineup last season in Domonic Brown, Ben Revere and Cody Asche. But five of their projected opening day starters -- Ruiz, Byrd, Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins -- will be 34 or older.

“Yes, they’re older,” Amaro said. “But they’re also very good when they’re playing.”

Amaro plans a few more additions to the pitching staff and possibly the outfield.

"We may look to try to improve our lineup somehow or tweak our lineup somehow," he said.

Still, he believes the aging core of the team can succeed.

“I think we can win,” he said. “Really it’s a matter of getting guys on the field. If they’re on the field, they’ll produce. Unless something drastic happens over the next few months, I fully expect them to be on the field and performing.

“I believe in our players. There’s no question they’re getting older, but if they’re on the field, they’ll produce.”

Tonight's lineup: Tommy Joseph remains; Pedro Florimon starts in RF

lineup.jpg

Tonight's lineup: Tommy Joseph remains; Pedro Florimon starts in RF

With Odubel Herrera and Aaron Altherr both on the disabled list, manager Pete Mackanin continues to stick with Tommy Joseph as the Phillies' everyday first basemen.

Joseph is in the lineup batting fifth for Wednesday night's game against the Marlins, with red-hot Rhys Hoskins batting third and playing left field. Hoskins, who shares the same natural position as Joseph, has made just two starts at first since his promotion to the bigs. 

After getting the day off in the Phils' win over the Giants on Sunday, Joseph began to climb out his dreadful 5 for 56 slump in Tuesday's doubleheader with a pair of home runs and three hits overall. Meanwhile, Hoskins continued his hot streak by blasting his sixth home run and bringing his average up to .244, a far cry from his 1 for 13 start.

In right field, Pedro Florimon will make his second start since being called up from Triple A Lehigh Valley. The 30-year-old utility man is 4 for 11 with four RBIs in five game appearances with the Phils. 

Behind the plate, Jorge Alfaro gets the start over Cameron Rupp, who hit a home run in his third straight game in the Phillies' first loss on Tuesday. In 33 plate appearances, Alfaro is hitting .333/.333/.424 with one home run and three RBIs.

Here is the Phils' full lineup:
1. Cesar Hernandez, 2B
2. Freddy Galvis, SS
3. Nick Williams, CF
4. Rhys Hoskins, LF
5. Tommy Joseph, 1B
6. Maikel Franco, 3B
7. Pedro Florimon, RF
8. Jorge Alfaro, C
9. Mark Leiter Jr., P

And for the Marlins: 
1. Dee Gordon, 2B
2. Giancarlo Stanton, RF
3. Christian Yelich, CF
4. Marcell Ozuna, LF
5. J.T. Realmuto, C
6. Derek Dietrich, 3B
7. Tomas Telis, 1B
8. Miguel Rojas, SS
9. Justin Nicolino, P

For more on tonight's game, check out Tom Dougherty's game notes.

Phillies-Marlins 5 things: Putting Tuesday's nightmare behind them

Phillies-Marlins 5 things: Putting Tuesday's nightmare behind them

Phillies (45-79) vs. Marlins (62-62)
7:05 p.m. on CSN/CSNPhilly.com and NBC Sports App; Pregame Live begins at 6:30.

Double the trouble and it wasn't pretty, but Tuesday's nightmare is over.

The Phillies move on.

Tonight, the Phillies continue their series with Miami at Citizens Bank Park.

Let's take a closer look at tonight's ballgame.

1. Leits out?
With Phillies manager Pete Mackanin using six relievers during Tuesday's doubleheader, the Phillies will need Mark Leiter Jr. to give them innings tonight against the Marlins.

Leiter makes his second straight start after finding success as a long reliever in the Phillies' bullpen. The rookie continues to be yanked between the 'pen to the rotation.

His last time out didn't go so well. Leiter allowed eight runs — four earned — on seven hits, two homers, three walks and just one strikeout in five innings against the Padres last Tuesday. He hasn't pitched past the fifth inning in his last three starts and has thrown more than 100 pitches just once in his first season in the big leagues.

Tonight will be Leiter's fourth appearance against the Marlins. He's 0-1 with a 19.29 ERA against Miami, allowing six runs — five earned — and walking four in 2 1/3 innings.

Leiter is 1-3 with a 4.38 ERA in 20 games this season. He has four starts and 16 relief appearances, including back-to-back long relief outings where he racked up 16 strikeouts in 9 1/3 innings before being summoned back to the rotation last week in San Diego.

2. A little Rhys of heaven
Phillies fans got their first glimpse at home of a Rhys Hoskins homer during Game 1 of Tuesday's doubleheader. Hoskins smacked a two-run homer to center field in the first inning of the Phillies' 12-8 loss to the Marlins. It was his sixth homer of the season.

The last time the home fans saw him, Hoskins went 1 for 13 with four strikeouts and three walks in his first four major-league games from Aug. 10-13. Since then, he's become acclimated to the majors and has shown the power stroke he's shown in the minors.

Hoskins is just the seventh player and the first Phillie in the last 100 seasons with at least six homers in his first 12 games, according to ESPN Stats & Info. He became the first Phillie to hit four home runs in his first 10 games.

Since taking a .077 average out west last week, Hoskins has hit his way to a .244. He's carrying a .313 average over his last eight games into tonight's matchup. He has six homers and 10 RBIs during that span, with six walks and nine runs scored.

3. Phillie killer
Giancarlo Stanton is setting Marlins records this season. He broke the team's single-season record of 42 home runs and now has 46.

Is a major-league record (with an asterisk) next?

If he continues to face Phillies pitching, it sure seems possible Stanton reaches 62 homers this season, which would eclipse Roger Maris' 61 homers that he believes is the true MLB home run record. Stanton recently told the Sun Sentinel he doesn't count Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa's single-season home run totals as legit.

Regardless, Stanton has a shot at reaching 61. After clubbing another long ball Tuesday, Stanton is on pace to hit exactly 61 homers. In 41 games since July 5, the right-handed slugger is hitting .331 with 25 homers and 49 RBIs. Just three Phillies have more than 49 RBIs this season alone.

Stanton has dominated Phillies pitching, especially, this season. He's hitting .303 with six homers against the Phils in nine games. In his career, he has 25 homers against the Phillies — only the Mets has he tormented more over his career (33 career homers vs. New York).

Why the Phillies continue to pitch him is a question for Mackanin.

4. Players to watch …
Phillies: It's a safe bet Mackanin keeps Tommy Joseph in the lineup tonight despite struggles since the All-Star break. Joseph homered in each game of Tuesday's doubleheader and collected three hits in eight at-bats. Prior to Tuesday, Joseph was hitting .198 with one homer and 26 strikeouts in 121 at-bats since the ASB. He's 0 for 1 in two career plate appearances against Marlins starter Justin Nicolino.

Marlins: You'll be watching Stanton regardless. But also keep an eye out on Christian Yelich, who had five RBIs in Tuesday's doubleheader. He has seven RBIs in his last three games. The centerfielder is hitting .284 with 14 homers and 67 RBIs this season. He has a double in his only at-bat against Leiter.

5. This and that
• Hat tip to CSNPhilly producer Dan Roche: Tuesday's 12-8 loss in Game 1 was the first time the Phillies lost a game in which they hit five homers since June 29, 2010, against the Twins.

• The Marins are .500 for the first time since they were 10-10 on April 27.

• Nicolino will make his third straight start, which will be the first time he's done that in the majors in his career. The 25-year-old has allowed three runs in 10 1/3 innings over his last two starts.

• The Phillies recalled pitcher Drew Anderson from Triple A Lehigh Valley. To make room for the right-hander, the Phils optioned outfielder Cameron Perkins to Triple A.