Ruf's slugging, fielding becoming potent mix

rufap.jpg

Ruf's slugging, fielding becoming potent mix

August is Darin Ruf’s month.

The Phillies’ slugging outfielder has a major league-best eight home runs this month after belting one in the second inning of Friday night’s game against the Arizona Diamondbacks. It was Ruf’s second homer in as many days and his third blast of the week.

But home runs in the month of August are nothing new for Ruf. He hit two in his first 19 games of the season in July followed by the eight in 21 games this month. Last year, Ruf hit 20 of his record-breaking 38 homers for Double A Reading in August. That came after he hit two in the first 28 games of the season.

Indeed, the 27-year old Nebraskan is a late bloomer when it comes to his baseball career. He played four years in college at Creighton, was selected in the 20th round of the 2009 draft, and didn’t really find his power-hitting stroke until the age of 24 when he was playing at Single A Clearwater.

Two years later, he’s hitting homers in the majors.

Ruf might be a late bloomer, but he’s also a fast learner. After playing first base for his entire collegiate and minor league career, Ruf was moved to left field during his home run-hitting spree of 2012. With just one month of outfield experience in Double A, Ruf not only got a September call up but also found himself in spring training competing for a big-league job.

Ruf got in two more months of left field at Triple A through the early part of the season when he got the call to the big leagues. However, three weeks into it, Ruf switched to right field, a position he never had played before.

He actually had pitched more pro games than he had played right field.

So far, Ruf’s baptism by fire in right field has gone incredibly well. Not only has Ruf learned to play the position in a tricky little ballpark like Citizens Bank Park, but also he has shown a knack for tracking fly balls. Whether it’s hustling to make a sliding catch near the foul line or rushing back to the warning track to catch one before crashing into the wall, Ruf seems to have figured it out.

“Darin, for just being in right field since he’s been here," manager Ryne Sandberg said, "he’s been real impressive with that.

“He’s been very impressive to everybody. [Right field] was a position for him to get at-bats. I don't know how much experience he had. He's adapted very well. He gets to the ball and he catches. He's shown some range. He's sneaky with his speed. He gets good jumps. He's taken it upon himself to get work out there and he's adjusted very well. It's not an easy position, mainly here. He looks very comfortable to me.”

In 15 games in right field, Ruf has three outfield assists and has not committed an error. One of those assists came in the eighth inning of Wednesday night’s win over the Rockies. With two outs, Ruf threw out Michael Cuddyer trying to go from first to third on a single to end a rally.

The Phillies came through with a walk-off win an inning later.

Is Ruf surprised at how quickly he’s adapted to right field?

“A little bit I guess,” Ruf said. “I’m just not trying to do too much, make the plays that I’m supposed to. As far as catching balls that I’m supposed to, working on proper footwork and throwing to the correct base. Just trying to be more accurate than anything.”

Ruf also has had to build up his arm strength to play right field. As a first baseman, Ruf’s throws had to be quick. He had to have a quick release, which didn’t leave for much time to think about accuracy or arm slot. As an outfielder, Ruf can air it out. Thanks to more long-toss sessions, Ruf could become one of those guys the opposition doesn’t run on.

“Hopefully this offseason I’ll be able to stretch it out and work on arm strength and things like that,” Ruf said.

It doesn’t hurt matters that Ruf is hitting well. He has reached base in 45 of his 49 big-league games and 23 of his 47 career hits have been for extra bases.

And now he has shown he can play three positions in the big leagues.

“He has a chance to be a really good player,” said veteran Michael Young, a player who has played a bunch of positions since becoming a big leaguer. “He’s working hard, working hard on his defense at a position that is kind of unfamiliar to him. We know he can play first and can play left, so if he can show he can play right field, that’s something that can give the manager options and he can be an extremely valuable player.”

Phillies' rookie Zach Eflin has surgery on left knee

Phillies' rookie Zach Eflin has surgery on left knee

Six weeks after undergoing surgery to repair the patella tendon in his right knee, Phillies rookie Zach Eflin went under the knife again Friday.

As expected, Eflin had the same surgery - performed by Dr. Steve Cohen - done on his left knee.

According to the Phillies, Eflin will be immobilized for six weeks and is expected to make a full recovery.

Eflin, 22, has been dealing with knee problems since he was about 11 years old. The issues caused him to make just 11 starts in his rookie campaign. 

“You know this is an issue he’s been fighting since he was a kid,” general manager Matt Klentak said on the day of Eflin’s first surgery in August. “I think he told me since he was 11 years old, he first started battling knee problems. The hope here is that it’s going to alleviate the problem. And that he’s not going to have to deal with it. And in just talking candidly with Zach last night, while not excited to undergo the knife today, he was pretty excited about the possibility of coming to spring training next year pain-free for the first time in his life.”

That is still the expectation.

Eflin finished his rookie year 3-5 with a 5.54 ERA in 63 ⅓ innings pitched. He was 5-2 with a 2.90 ERA in 68 ⅓ innings at Triple A Lehigh Valley.

Tonight's lineup: Howard batting 5th with Herrera batting 3rd

Tonight's lineup: Howard batting 5th with Herrera batting 3rd

Ryan Howard is batting fifth to begin his final series with the Phillies.

The 36-year-old first baseman, who has donned red pinstripes for 13 seasons, did not play in Thursday's 5-2 loss to the Braves, but he is expected to start all three games against the Mets this weekend.

The Phillies have a lot of speed at the top of the lineup, even with Roman Quinn likely done for the season. Cesar Hernandez leads off with Freddy Galvis and Odubel Herrera right behind him. The trio lead the Phillies in steals with a total of 59 this year. Herrera has 25 while Hernandez and Galvis each have 17.

If you're wondering, Howard has not stolen a base this season, but he was caught stealing once. He hasn't stolen a base since June 26, 2011, before his Achilles injury. He only stole more than one base in a season in 2008, when he swiped eight bases.

Cameron Rupp returns to the lineup at catcher. He'll bat right behind Howard, followed by Jimmy Paredes and Aaron Altherr in the corner outfield.

Here's the Phillies' full lineup:

1. Cesar Hernandez, 2B
2. Freddy Galvis, SS
3. Odubel Herrera, CF
4. Maikel Franco, 3B
5. Ryan Howard, 1B
6. Cameron Rupp, C
7. Jimmy Paredes, LF
8. Aaron Altherr, RF
9. Alec Asher, P

And the Mets lineup:
1. Jose Reyes, 3B
2. Asdrubal Cabrera, SS
3. Yoenis Cespedes, LF
4. Curtis Granderson, CF
5. Jay Bruce, RF
6. T.J. Rivera, 2B
7. Lucas Duda, 1B
8. Rene Rivera, C
9. Robert Gsellman, RHP