Ruf still has work to do before return to Phillies

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Ruf still has work to do before return to Phillies

ALLENTOWN, Pa. -- Just because Darin Ruf is finished with his rehab assignment and off the disabled list doesn’t mean he’s on the fast track to the Phillies’ lineup.

Actually, Ruf’s road back to the big leagues could end up being a little longer than some might think.

“Darin is an IronPig,” Lehigh Valley manager Dave Brundage said Thursday night. “It’s our job to get him ready and to get him in shape and get the confidence for him to be the hitter that he is.”

Ruf isn’t quite ready to join the Phillies and give manager Ryne Sandberg the player he needs to revamp his outfield. With centerfielder Ben Revere struggling at the leadoff spot and Dom Brown fighting to regain his All-Star form from a year ago, Ruf’s emergence could be very beneficial.

Ruf could allow Marlon Byrd to play center field or give Brown days off against lefties. Moreover, Ruf could be a needed right-handed slugger off the bench; the Phillies are 6 for 46 (.130) with one homer in pinch-hitting situations this season.

Nevertheless, it’s going to take some time for him to get back to form.

“I have to keep in mind that I didn’t do stuff for a long time,” Ruf said.

When Ruf suffered a strained oblique muscle during spring training, he was forced to shut down not just his baseball workouts but also all of his workouts. That means Ruf didn’t swing a bat, throw a ball, wear a glove or jog around the infield.

He didn’t run at all. He didn’t do anything.

“I was pretty much shut down for four-and-a-half to five weeks,” Ruf said after going 1 for 5 for Lehigh Valley in a 7-1 victory over Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Thursday night at Coca-Cola Park.

“I didn’t start running until after the five-week mark. I was pretty much starting over from scratch. I don’t think I ever took off that long in the offseason.”

So don’t expect it to come back overnight for Ruf, who has played in four straight games for Lehigh Valley after playing three for Single A Clearwater last week. Ruf is ready to settle in and get to work because he’s essentially in just his second week of spring training.

No, Ruf isn’t approaching the games as if he’s playing in the Grapefruit League, but he certainly has perspective. In fact, Ruf uses teammate Freddy Galvis as a point of reference why it isn’t a good idea to hurry back. Galvis rushed back from MRSA, appeared in three games for Clearwater and was back in Philadelphia.

As a result, Galvis went 2 for 42 in 16 games for the Phillies before being demoted.

“I saw what happened to Freddy and he kind of struggled when he was rushed a little bit,” Ruf said. “I need to get some at-bats. I missed six to seven weeks and I probably missed about 80 at-bats that most of these guys have. I need to make the most out of every time I play.”

He’s going to get a chance to get in shape, too, Brundage said. In Thursday’s game, Ruf played nine innings at first base and didn’t come out of the game even when Lehigh Valley went on a big rally in the eighth inning to put the game out of reach. Batting third, Ruf got five plate appearances and saw 24 pitches. Though he struck out twice, Ruf hit a long, loud foul ball with the bases loaded in the eighth inning that curled just foul and disappeared over the back wall of the ballpark.

Yes, Ruf was slightly out in front of a fastball that time.

“It’s not going to happen overnight,” Brundage said. “I know he had some ABs [in Clearwater], but this is a good level for him to get better timing, and it’s realistic for what you’re facing to prepare to get back to the big leagues.”

In the meantime, the Phillies can impatiently wait for Ruf to rejoin the team.

Phillies getting good reports on catching prospect Jorge Alfaro

Phillies getting good reports on catching prospect Jorge Alfaro

Jorge Alfaro, one of the Phillies' most highly regarded prospects, is off to a big start at Triple A Lehigh Valley.
 
He entered Wednesday night's game hitting .377 (23 for 61) with a 1.003 OPS in his first 15 games. He had a double, two triples, three homers and 10 RBIs. Team officials would surely like to see the strikeouts (17) come down and the walks (1) go up, but no one is complaining about the production.
 
"I just looked at his numbers," manager Pete Mackanin said. "He's doing very well — knocking the cover off the ball."
 
Alfaro, 23, is widely considered the Phillies' catcher of the future. He's an athletic talent with huge upside. Many scouts believe he could be an All-Star if he puts it all together.
 
Defense is the area where Alfaro needs the most work. Yes, he's got a "howitzer" for an arm, as Mackanin called it, so that doesn't need much work. But there's a lot more to catching than throwing. There's game-calling, receiving and blocking.
 
Alfaro made a cameo with the big club last September and did not impress club officials with his receiving or blocking. Instructors focused on improving those areas in spring training, and Mackanin reports that Alfaro has shown progress in the early season.
 
"We get a complete game report on what everyone does offensively and defensively," Mackanin said. "Apparently he looks very good defensively.
 
"He had some issues defensively. He wasn't getting down enough and he worked on that all spring. He's a big guy and it's a little more difficult for a big guy to get low.
 
"And we wanted him to just be a little more quiet behind the plate, less movement. He had a tendency to be moving while the pitcher was getting ready to pitch. We just want a guy sitting back there nice and quiet with a good target. That might seem pretty elementary, but if you're not concentrating on doing that you might not realize the importance of it.
 
"He's doing well blocking balls. He's doing everything well right now and hitting on top of it, so that's a nice sign."

Clay Buchholz optimistic he can still pitch in 2017 after surgery

Clay Buchholz optimistic he can still pitch in 2017 after surgery

Pitcher Clay Buchholz made his first appearance in the Phillies' clubhouse Wednesday since having surgery to repair a torn flexor tendon in his right forearm last week.  

Many initially believed Buchholz would be out for the remainder of the season -- and he still might be -- but he expressed optimism and believes he can return to the mound in September.

"My goal right now is to let this heal," Buchholz said. "Get it well and if this team keeps playing like they're playing right now, we'll be playing in September, October, so that's my goal."

Buchholz said he wasn't feeling 100 percent leading up to the April 11 game against the New York Mets when manager Pete Mackanin pulled him in the third inning. 

"I told [general manager Matt Klentak] that I was sorry, and the guys in here," Buchholz said. "I was brought here for a reason. I wanted to pitch, I wanted to be good. I guess it's a good thing we have a good farm system here because they've been able to step up and fill in."

Buchholz had a similar issue with the Boston Red Sox in July 2015 and missed the rest of the season. 

In his two starts with the Phillies, Buchholz allowed 10 runs and 19 baserunners over just 7 1/3 innings. 
 
Buchholz, 32, will become a free agent at the end of the season. Given his age and the possibility that he won't return this season, the injury could significantly affect his value heading into the offseason. He's the second-highest paid player on the Phillies' roster at $13.5 million

But Buchholz wants to build the strength in his forearm and continue to pitch in MLB following this season.

"There's a lot of guys that come back," Buchholz said. "I have a lot of buddies that played this game that have come back from major surgeries and played for eight or nine more years. It's all about once I do get healthy, being prepared and building a strong foundation around my muscles."