MLB Notes: Pujols not running, still eyes opener

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MLB Notes: Pujols not running, still eyes opener

Domonic Brown continues to swing a hot bat for the Phillies in spring training (see story).

Now, some other news and notes from around the majors.

Pujols not running yet, eyes opener
TEMPE, Ariz. -- Albert Pujols is nearly ready to start running on the field in the Los Angeles Angels slugger's deliberate recovery from offseason surgery on his right knee.

Pujols is taking batting practice and running on a treadmill at spring training, and he participated in fielding drills Tuesday. He's expected to start running on the field later this week. The $240 million first baseman isn't expected to play in a Cactus League game until mid-March, but Angels manager Mike Scioscia has no doubt Pujols will be ready for opening day.

Pujols is the Angels' only position player who hasn't played a game in spring training yet. New right fielder Josh Hamilton debuted for Los Angeles against Arizona on Tuesday.

Hamilton hitless in Angels debut
TEMPE, Ariz. -- Josh Hamilton went 0 for 3 in his Cactus League debut with the Los Angeles Angels, playing five innings in their 7-7 tie with an Arizona Diamondbacks split squad on Tuesday.

Hamilton grounded out on the first pitch he faced and later flied out twice for the Angels, who signed him a five-year, $125 million free-agent deal to leave Texas for its AL West rivals.

Hamilton had no challenges in right field at Diablo Stadium. He says he's thrilled with his first spring in the Angels' clubhouse, although still a bit unfamiliar with his new teammates.

Gerardo Parra hit a two-run homer and Rod Barajas added a fourth-inning solo shot for the Diamondbacks. Parra warmed up for his stint with Venezuela at the World Baseball Classic with a first-inning shot over Hamilton's head in right.

Indians name Masterson opening-day starter
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- New Cleveland Indians manager Terry Francona has named Justin Masterson his starter for opening day.

Francona told the right-hander in the dugout Tuesday before Cleveland played the Kansas City Royals.

It will be the second time Masterson starts a season opener. A year ago, the 28-year-old struck out 10 over eight innings against the Blue Jays in Cleveland, allowing two hits and one run in a game that the Indians went on to lose in 16 innings, 7-4.

The Indians open in Toronto on April 2. Their home opener against the New York Yankees on April 8 already is sold out.

Phillies' Darin Ruf could be facing quiet goodbye

Phillies' Darin Ruf could be facing quiet goodbye

The final eight games remaining on the Phillies’ 2016 schedule will undoubtedly serve as a farewell to Ryan Howard.

Lost in the background may be the fact this week could quite possibly be the end for the man who was supposed to platoon alongside him this year, as well: Darin Ruf.

Both men have been supplanted by Tommy Joseph, who's hit 21 home runs in just 100 games this year while positioning himself as the Phillies first baseman of the near future.

Ruf will start Saturday night against Mets’ lefthander Sean Gilmartin. The Phillies are not scheduled to face a lefty starter for the rest of the season, so Saturday could be one of the final chances to see Ruf in a Phillies uniform, especially considering manager Pete Mackanin’s stated intent to give Howard more playing time down the stretch.

“It seemed like we never faced a lefty for the first month of the season. So that didn’t help Ruf at the time,” Mackanin said.  “Joseph entered the picture and made an immediate impression.”

Ruf’s departure from the majors set the stage for Joseph’s immediate emergence. At the time of his May 13 demotion to AAA Lehigh Valley – and Joseph’s promotion -- Ruf was had a .158/.206/.193 slash line.
  
Since his Sept. 1 return to the majors after rosters expanded, Ruf has done what he can to make sure his possible final season in a Phillies uniform ends on a high note. On Friday night, he drilled a home run to left center off Mets reliever Josh Smoker in pinch-hit duty, the first time Ruf had gone yard since Oct. 1, 2015.

“It felt good,” Ruf said about ending his home run drought. “You just try to simply things and last night it worked out for me.”

Where Ruf will be next year is a more complicated matter, as the 30-year-old is out of minor league options. Japanese scouts were spotted at the games he played for AAA Lehigh Valley.

With Lehigh Valley, Ruf received an opportunity he’s never truly been able to get with the Phillies due to the longstanding presence of Howard: a chance to play every day and consistently accumulate plate appearances. He hit .294/.356/.529 in 390 trips to the plate for the IronPigs. 

Ruf has never made more than 300 plate appearances in a major league season and would struggle to crack that number if he remains in Philadelphia as a backup to Joseph, who will still be 25 on opening day next year.

“I learned [this year] that you can’t take anything for granted in this game,” Ruf said. “You’ve just got to keep working to get better every day, got to put up numbers no matter where you’re at in order to get to where you want. 

“Hopefully, wherever I’m at next year, I can do that.”

Tonight's Lineup: Jorge Alfaro catches, bats 8th vs. Mets

Tonight's Lineup: Jorge Alfaro catches, bats 8th vs. Mets

Jorge Alfaro is behind the plate for the Phillies tonight and bats eighth. Alfaro has appeared in just four games since being called up earlier this month, and has just one hit in 10 at-bats. 

Tommy Joseph is back in the lineup and batting fifth. Pete Mackanin has said that Ryan Howard would get a lot of playing time during the last few games, but it is Joseph who gets the start tonight. Joseph is batting just .154 against the Mets this season. 

Odubel Herrera, who has been hitting well in September, will remain in the three spot. He has two homers and is batting .391 over the past week. Herrera has two hits in six at-bats against Mets' starter Sean Gilmartin. 

Phillies

1. Cesar Hernandez, 2B
2. Roman Quinn, RF
3. Odubel Herrera, CF 
4. Maikel Franco, 3B 
5. Tommy Joseph, 1B
6. Darin Ruf, LF
7. Freddy Galvis, SS
8. Jorge Alfaro, C
9. Alec Asher, P