With switch to right field, Ruf's bat stays hot

080613darinrufusa2.jpg

With switch to right field, Ruf's bat stays hot

Whether he's positioned at first base, in left field or across the way in right, Darin Ruf and his approach in the batter's box remain the same.

Consistency is something Ruf has focused on since joining the Phillies in early July, but in the field he's been jockeyed around quite a bit.

The 27-year-old call-up began his time in Philadelphia at first base, shifted to the left side of the outfield and, on Tuesday night, played in right for the first time in his MLB career after Domonic Brown was activated from the disabled list.

Ruf, who is on a torrid pace at the plate, said he doesn't let his offensive mindset cross paths with the defensive one, and that was certainly the case in the Phillies' series-opening win over the Cubs (see game recap).

The Phillies’ new rightfielder went 2 for 4 with a home run, a double and two RBIs, all while registering a couple of putouts.

"I think Ruf is going to have to hit, but I think he can," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. "It seems like he gets better the more he plays, so that's good."

Ruf stretched his on-base streak to 33 games, the longest for a Phillie since Chase Utley did so from September 2008 to April 2009. Ruf currently holds the longest active on-base streak in the bigs.

The Nebraska native said his pitch selection has been on-point and that he and the coaching staff formulate a plan of attack before each plate appearance.

"I'm seeing the ball well," Ruf said. "It's nice when you get a good pitch to hit, you're swinging at strikes and having a plan every at-bat. That's what we've kind of been talking about and it's nice to go up there and execute."

Outside of the streak, Ruf's statistical value has, accordingly, spiked dramatically.

His two-hit performance against Chicago pushed his batting average to .309 through 25 games in 2013. The right-handed hitter hasn't just steadily reached base safely, his slugging percentage has risen as well, making him a more complete hitter.

Ruf's OPS is at .960 on the season. He isn't qualified to be ranked in the category because of his short stint so far in the majors, but just for comparison's sake, Colorado's Carlos Gonzalez (.958) and Cincinnati's Joey Votto (.951) are fifth and sixth in the league, respectively, in OPS.

Ruf feels as though he's taking advantage of an opportunity presented to him by Manuel and the Phillies, but one month of stellar hitting isn't an end result.

"So far, yeah. But there's still 50 or so games left and it's important to stay consistent," Ruf said. "It's nice to have a month of success right now, but that's not the ultimate goal to have one month of success. It's to have a successful career. Multiple seasons of playing baseball well."

Phillies 10, Blue Jays 3: Jeremy Hellickson limbers up, offense continues to hit

Phillies 10, Blue Jays 3: Jeremy Hellickson limbers up, offense continues to hit

DUNEDIN, Fla. — Jeremy Hellickson did not shine in his spring debut Sunday, but he didn’t have to.

Hellickson projects to be the Phillies’ opening day starter for the second straight year, but with five weeks to go before it all starts for real in Cincinnati, he has plenty of time to put a coat of polish on his game.

The right-hander knocked off some wintertime rust with two innings of work against the Toronto Blue Jays. He gave up four hits and two runs, walked one and did not strike out a batter.

“I felt great,” Hellickson said. “I wasn’t really commanding the fastball like I wanted, but my arm and my body felt good.”

Hellickson went 12-10 with a 3.71 ERA in 32 starts for the Phillies last season and could have opted for free agency in the offseason. However, he surveyed the marketplace and determined he’d be better off taking the Phillies’ qualifying offer of $17.2 million for 2017 and trying his luck on the free-agent market next season.

So he’s betting on himself.

“That's kind of how I'm looking at it,” he said. “It was easy to do that just with the way I felt last year. I think I can definitely repeat or exceed what I did last year.”

The Phillies can’t give Hellickson another qualifying offer after this season so it’s quite possible they will look to deal him in July. But that won’t necessarily be easy. The Phils had talks with a number of teams about Hellickson last July and were unable to consummate a deal. It will be tougher this July as Hellickson’s salary has jumped by $10 million. The Phillies may have to eat some of that salary to get a deal they like.

Hellickson was asked if he was ready for another summer of trade rumors.

“No,” he said with a wry smile. “But I know it’s coming.”

He’s holding out hope that the Phillies will play their way into contention and the front office keeps the rotation together. He believes it’s possible.

“I think we have a really good team here," he said. "Hopefully we're the ones trading for guys at the deadline.

“I've been reading some stuff saying (Aaron) Nola is a No. 5 guy. If Nola's your No. 5 guy, you have a pretty good rotation. I definitely think one through five we can give six, seven, eight strong innings every time out. Then with the guys we signed for the back of our bullpen, it'll make our jobs that much easier. The days we don't have it, I feel like we can hand it off to those guys after five or six. We're in pretty good shape.”

The game
The Phillies beat the Jays, 10-3, on the strength of 13 hits and three Toronto errors. The Phils had eight hits in Saturday’s win over the Yankees.

Cam Perkins, Pedro Florimon and Daniel Nava all had two hits. Rhys Hoskins and Ryan Hanigan both walked twice. Andres Blanco homered. Brock Stassi doubled. Nick Williams had a hit, two RBIs and a walk. Power-hitting rightfielder Dylan Cozens stole two bases.

Cozens is a legitimate stolen-base threat. In addition to belting 40 homers at Double A Reading last season, he swiped 21 bags and was only caught once.

“You’ve got to like his stools,” manager Pete Mackanin said. “He’s really an athletic guy. He’s got good hands at the plate. I think he’s going to hit because he doesn’t have a lot of excess body movement. He hits a lot with his hands and I think in time he’ll cut down on the strikeouts and he’ll be an even better player. He looks like a solid defender, good hitting ability, a lot of power and some speed.”

On the mound​
Ben Lively and Alberto Tirado both pitched two scoreless innings and Pat Neshek and Michael Mariot had one each.

Up next
Jerad Eikchoff makes his spring debut when the Phillies host the Tampa Bay Rays on Monday afternoon.

Clay Buchholz will get the start Tuesday against Baltimore.

Phillies prospect Nick Pivetta has long-awaited meeting with Roy Halladay

Phillies prospect Nick Pivetta has long-awaited meeting with Roy Halladay

CLEARWATER, Fla. – Phillies pitching prospect Nick Pivetta had one of those pinch-me moments Saturday.

He met his boyhood idol, Roy Halladay, at a charity event.

Someone had filled in Halladay that Pivetta had grown up in Canada and had regularly watched Toronto Blue Jays games on television. Pivetta loved watching Halladay pitch, as he talked about a few weeks ago here.

“I got to briefly shake his hand,” Pivetta said Sunday morning. “He knew I was like a stalker. He said, ‘Oh, right, you’re the guy from British Columbia.’ “

Halladay, who pitched for the Phils from 2010 to 2013, lives in the Clearwater area. Pivetta said he expected to speak more with Halladay in the coming days.

Halladay was honored at the 44th annual Clearwater For Youth banquet and Pivetta attended with a number of his teammates and Phillies officials. Phillies chairman David Montgomery and his wife Lyn were also honored for their charitable works.

Pivetta will pitch for Team Canada in the World Baseball Classic in March.