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.

Top Phillies prospect Mickey Moniak adds muscle, looks for big season 2017

Top Phillies prospect Mickey Moniak adds muscle, looks for big season 2017

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. – The difference was striking.
 
When Mickey Moniak arrived in Philadelphia to sign his first professional contract six months ago, he was rail-thin and 170 pounds.
 
On Tuesday night, Moniak made a quick visit to the winter meetings to be honored as Baseball America’s high school player of the year for 2016. 
 
He’d added 20 pounds to his 6-foot-2 frame.
 
“It’s all muscle,” Moniak said proudly.
 
The Phillies selected Moniak with the first pick in the June draft and signed him for $6.1 million. Just a few months of professional baseball convinced the 18-year-old centerfielder that he needed to get stronger. He recently capped off his first year of pro ball with a three-week stint at the Phillies’ strength and conditioning camp in Clearwater.
 
“It’s something the Phillies wanted me to do and I knew I definitely needed it, too,” Moniak said. “I really enjoyed my first year. I got a taste of what it was like to play baseball for a job and it was a good time.
 
“There were a lot of positives that came out of the first year. I felt like I jumped in there and really competed. I hit well in July. In August, I started to fatigue and I wasn’t prepared for that, being my first season. But it was a good learning experience. I needed to get stronger.”
 
Moniak hit .284 with a .340 on-base percentage, 11 doubles, four triples, a homer and 28 RBIs in 46 games for the Phillies’ prospect-stacked Gulf Coast League team. That club, loaded with young Latin players and first-year talent from the 2016 draft, went 41-17 and advanced to the finals of the league playoffs before losing to the Cardinals.
 
After the playoffs, many of the players from that club participated in the Florida instructional league. Moniak played sparingly, however, after dealing with some soreness in his right hip. He was checked out by doctors in Philadelphia and there are no more concerns.
 
“It was just tightness,” Moniak said. “Everything is good. I’m 100 percent. They said it was either a growing pain or just tightness. I just have to stretch more.”
 
Moniak is an athletic centerfielder with speed and a good left-side bat. He has been compared favorably to former All-Star Steve Finley.
 
"Collectively, we believe Mickey was the best player available in the draft," Johnny Almaraz, the Phillies head of amateur scouting, said on draft night in June. "He's a true centerfielder with incredible offensive ability and the potential to be a perennial All-Star."

Moniak hit .476 with seven homers, 12 triples and four doubles at La Costa Canyon High School in Carlsbad, California, during his senior season. He impressed a rival scout who saw him play five times during the season.

“The bat is good,” the scout said. “He’s going to hit and hit for average. He’s a good centerfielder. He can run. The question is how many home runs will he hit? If he ends up getting stronger, he could be a corner bat that’s unbelievable. There’s no negative here. It’s a good pick.”
 
Now, Moniak is stronger. He looked sturdy in a dress shirt and tie at the winter meetings Tuesday night. He is eager to see how it all translates on the field in 2017.
 
“I’m excited for the season,” he said. “I’m just going to go to spring training and compete and hopefully end up in (Single A) Lakewood, stay healthy and hopefully have a winning season and win a championship. That’s the ultimate goal and if personal stats come with that, too, that’s great.”

Pete Mackanin talks Phillies' need for more offense, contract status

Pete Mackanin talks Phillies' need for more offense, contract status

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — As the 2016 season was winding down, Phillies manager Pete Mackanin surveyed his low-scoring club and made public an offseason wish list that included “two professional hitters.”

So far this winter, he’s gotten one — Howie Kendrick.

Is that going to be enough to satisfy the skipper?

“You know what, I'm happy that we acquired Kendrick because we needed a solid, professional hitter,” Mackanin said at the winter meetings Tuesday. “Howie Kendrick is one of those guys. He knows how to give you good at-bats, grind out at-bats.

“We have guys like (Maikel) Franco and Freddy (Galvis), to name a few, who really need a better plan at the plate. I think Howie is going to help them out just by watching him take at-bats and go about his business. I think that's going to help a lot of our guys improve.

“I would like to get another guy. You can always use more hitting, more pitching, better players. But I'm pretty happy with Howie.”

There’s no doubt that Mackanin would like to add another hitter to an offense that ranked last in the majors in runs scored (610) and second to last in batting average (.240), on-base percentage (.301) and slugging (.385).

“Yeah, it would be nice,” Mackanin conceded. “We have to improve offensively.”

General manager Matt Klentak has spoken often this winter about the quandary he’s facing. He would like to add another bat in a corner outfield spot, but not necessarily at the cost of taking away an opportunity from a young player such as Roman Quinn or blocking the ultimate ascension of Dylan Cozens or Nick Williams. This is the tightrope that the GM of a rebuilding club must walk.

There are several corner outfield bats (J.D. Martinez, Jay Bruce, Andre Ethier) available in potential trades and others (such as Michael Saunders) on the free-agent market.

“It’s about striking the right balance between adding a veteran bat or veteran free agent to make our team better, but again, not taking playing time away from players that need the playing time,” Klentak said.

Mackanin understands all this. But he’d still love to have another bat.

Does he think he’ll eventually get one?

“That's hard to say,” he said. “Obviously I would like to have a solid hitter for the team, for the fans, for everybody. We would like to win more games. I think it would be very important, obviously, to improve our offense. … I think we owe it to the pitchers to create more offense so that they are in more games. Everything is still up in the air. It's early. Deals may be made in January or in spring training when things happen. So one move might create an opening in another. If we trade a pitcher, we get a position player. A lot of things can change, so it is a little too soon to think too much about that.”

Contract talk
Mackanin is entering the final guaranteed year of his contract in 2017. He has a club option for 2018.

Will the Phillies pick up Mackanin’s option before spring training to prevent a lame-duck situation?

Klentak was noncommittal on the subject Tuesday.

“We have time to do that,” he said. “Obviously last year we talked about his status in spring training and I’m sure the time will come when we’ll sit down and talk about it again.”

In March, the Phillies gave Mackanin a two-year contract with a club option for 2018.

“I hope they pick it up but that's not up to me,” Mackanin said. “That's up to them. I feel that when it's time for them to let me know, they let me know.

“But in the meantime, I'm not consumed by it. Hopefully it will happen, but it doesn't help me thinking about it.”