You have to give the Philadelphia Phillies this much, they like to make sure their prospects are ready before they give them the chance to prove it. Ryan Howard had to decimate pitching for three straight seasons in the minors before he was finally given a chance to prove he was ready for the big show at the age of 25. Chase Utley spent three season at Triple-A before an injury opened the door for him, also at the age of 25-years-old. And does it not seem like we have been hearing about Dominic Brown since the last presidential election?
So it is hardly without surprise that the latest call-up for the Phillies, Darin Ruf, is a little long in the tooth himself. At 26-years-old, he is starting to straddle that age where they replace the prospect tag with the dreaded “roster depth” moniker. Just don’t tell Ruf that.
Drafted in the 20th round in 2009 after graduating from Creighton University, Ruf already had a short window of opportunity in front of him. When you spend the first three years of your professional career playing at the different stops in the A-Ball circuit, that window gets a little bit narrower. Still, the Phillies must have seen something they liked. And in 2011, the first signs of things clicking started to show, as Ruf put together a .308 season with 17 home runs and 82 RBI at high-A Clearwater.
Still, glimmer or not, it is hard to say anyone saw a monster season in 2012 on the horizon.
The 2011 performance earned Ruf his first taste of advanced baseball with a promotion to Double-A Reading. All he did there in 2012 is set the team record for home runs with 38, besting the mark of 37 previously held in Reading by the aforementioned Ryan Howard. Oh, and he tossed in a .317 average, 104 RBI, and a 1.028 OPS. Granted, we’re talking about a player who is older than his typical competition, but the Eastern League is no slouch of a league to compete in either.
So, at 26-years-old, the Phillies are giving this senior citizen his first shot at the big leagues, not with an eye toward today but to tomorrow. He may be entering his prime years, but the Phillies have the intention of finding out if they will be good years, even if it means teaching this old dog, a first baseman in the minors, a new position in left field.
Charlie Manuel said it best.
“There’s an old saying: If you can hit, they will find a place for you. In today’s game, that old saying goes a long ways. If you can hit and hit for power, more than likely they’ll find a position where you can play.”
In Ruf’s case, he’s just looking for his chance to find that place to play and he’ll take it wherever they give it to him. Only time will tell Whether he can follow in the line of Howard and Utley and hit the ground running once given the chance. Things worked out pretty quickly for them and Ruf will hope to catch on just as fast.
After all, he’s not getting any younger.
In addition to his work at Call to the Pen, Kyle can be found casting his thoughts on small market baseball on The Baseball Big Brother Project. You can also follow his other dribbles on twitter @BBallBigBrother