There is some combination of outfielders that will make sense to the Phillies at some point. What that combination is–whether it’s capitalizing on somebody’s speed to cover the lurching radii of sluggers parked in the corners, or platoons of varying skill sets getting the green light depending the day, hour, or inning–remains in the cards.
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But the Phillies, like anybody who, I don’t know, likes cool things, would enjoy seeing their lineup produce more long balls in 2013. The team ranked 18th in baseball in 2012 and, after intense months of research, it was revealed that they would hit a lot more home runs if Chase Utley and Ryan Howard were given full-time hours, of farm system laboratories were able to produce a specimen of burly, baby-faced proportions.
So a couple of factors come into play for the Phils, but one wild card juts out like some kind of 52-dinger anomaly.
Darin Ruf is instantly distrusted; not because he carries a hunting knife everywhere or has a shifty face–quite the opposite really, he looks like he’d be a swell babysitter–but because of the spontaneity of his arrival.
Here we all are, experiencing the 2012 Phillies as best we can, which is to say, on the internet and with a shitty attitude, and suddenly this minor league slugger from Reading goes 2006 Ryan Howard on us, with not a lot of previously eye-popping success to put his Eastern League Triple Crown run in context.
And he can’t turn it off; he comes up to the Majors in September and cranks three more, one for his first MLB hit. Then he heads down to Venezuela for the Winter Leagues and has people talking about a home run record for the second straight league.
He’s already 26, and his position is blocked by the aforementioned Howard, and he wasn’t a Delaware Valley household name until a few months ago. This reeks of unsustainability, but the Phillies have plodded along, explaining, “We don’t know what we have with Darin yet,” needing a lot to be convinced and needing some consistency to stay that way.
Well, Darin has given them that. And now he’s talking jobs. Starting jobs. And Ruben’s reciprocating.
"“I don’t think it really matters who they sign, what they do, if I can show that I can help the team in some way.”—Darin Ruf“He’s going to get an opportunity to play a lot this spring. We’ll see what he does.”—Ruben Amaro"
Amaro went on to say what a rare thing pure power is right now, and kudos to him for not turning into a salivating weasel maniacally rubbing his hands together when he discovered it. Being pecked into an outfielder after manning first base is no small task, and the drop in defense would be noticeable.
But this is a team who didn’t seem to mind playing Pat Burrell and Raul Ibanez in left for years at a time, so if the kid comes into the Grapefruit League and does what he’s done to most other leagues in which he’s appeared, then his mighty brawn lends the Phillies an aspect in these free agent deals that may not have known they had.