Lost amidst the 1-13 record in their last 14 games, lost amidst the Antonio Bastardo 50-game Biogenesis suspension, and lost amidst a trade deadline that saw the Phillies get no better for 2014 and beyond, there are still a few reasons to watch the Philadelphia Phillies play baseball.
If you can stomach all the other stuff, Darin Ruf and Cody Asche give fans a reason to keep tuning in and keep those cable TV ratings high enough to charge Comcast a small country’s GDP’s worth of cash for the right to broadcast their games.
Ruf is in the middle of a nifty little streak of having reached base safely in 30 consecutive games, the longest current streak in baseball. And while his power hasn’t really come to the forefront in the short time he’s been up so far this year (3 HRs and 6 doubles in just 92 PAs), Ruf is a streaky power hitter and those homers could come in bunches.
But his batting average of .299 and his on-base percentage of .413 has helped provide him with an OPS of .907. His critics may yet be proven correct, but at the moment, Ruf is perhaps the lone bright spot on a team going nowhere. And his ability to get on base reminds his skipper of a couple former Phils.
“What Jayson Werth and Pat Burrell brought to our team was on-base percentage and things like that,” Manuel said Monday. “I think people forgot all about how many times they were on base, so the more runners you get on base, the more opportunities you have to score.” – quotes per CSN Philly’s Jim Salisbury
Manuel also noted that Ruf’s ability to walk as a way to avoid outs and get on base is not something you see a lot of from the Phillies anymore.
“Nobody in the game teaches walking,” Manuel said. “We don’t teach walking. We teach get a good ball to hit, and if you don’t get a good ball to hit, you walk. But we also teach patience.”
It’s a lesson not many players on the team take heed to anymore.
Ruf continues to be a work in progress in the outfield but, so far, he hasn’t been an unmitigated disaster.
As for Asche, his brief stint in the Majors hasn’t gone as well as he would have liked, but it is still VERY early.
In his first six games, Asche has struggled at the plate, with just one hit in 17 at bats. That’s an .059 batting average although, of course, it’s an extremely small sample size. And while he has made a couple spectacular defensive plays at third base, he’s also committed three errors.
Still, Manuel says he’s going to be patient with Asche.
“I think just because you get off to a slow start, you still play the guy,” Manuel said. “Even if something happens and you have to send him back, he’ll learn more from that than you think he will and the next time he comes up, he’ll be better.”
“Asche’s getting to play. I need to put him out there and just let him play,” Manuel said. “I gave him a day off [Sunday], not because he can’t hit left-handers, but just to slowly work him in. I’ve seen him make some good plays. He’s hit some balls hard that got caught.”
Of course, this will all come to a head when Domonic Brown returns (supposedly that’s happening on Wednesday) and when Ryan Howard returns (which, given the state of the season, he probably shouldn’t). Brown is obviously going to play in the outfield every day and, much to the surprise of everyone, Michael Young is still here, presumably to play some third and first base.
It would be a sin for Ruf and Asche to see their playing time eaten up by two veterans whose presence will do no good toward seeing what these younger guys might be able to do in 2014 and beyond.
One hopes Manuel is aware of this, or that Young gets traded before the end of the month.
Because these last couple months should be all about figuring out just what they have in Ruf and Asche.