Phillies prospect Darin Ruf focusing on his work in the outfield

YONG KIM / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Darin Ruf celebrates one of his three homers for Phils in 2012.
YONG KIM / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Darin Ruf celebrates one of his three homers for Phils in 2012.
Posted: July 05, 2013

DARIN RUF has faced multiple obstacles during his time with the Phillies organization. As a first baseman by trade, the 26-year-old was required to learn and play the outfield to have a chance to start someday in Philadelphia's lineup.

When Ruf was acquired in the 20th round of 2009 MLB draft, some thought he could be a player who could back up first baseman Ryan Howard and pinch-hit for the Phillies. But Ruf had other ideas, and showed his potential during his breakout season with Double A Reading in 2012.

In 489 at-bats in Reading last season, Ruf batted .317 with 38 homers, 32 doubles and 104 RBI before joining Philadelphia on Sept. 10. Ruf's 38 homers broke the franchise record of 37 set by Howard in 2004 and earned him the nickname of 'Babe Ruf.'

"I've always had power, but last year I don't know what happened at the end of the year," Ruf said, who hit 20 homers in 116 at-bats last August. "I guess I was getting more elevation on the ball, even though I've always been a doubles hitter all throughout college and even through last year."

Ruf's only obstacle was Howard, who has started regularly at first base since 2006. To help the Philadelphia lineup, Ruf was moved in 2012 to leftfield, where he struggled defensively, though batting .333 with three homers in 12 games.

"Obviously, anytime someone is learning a new position, I think along the way they will face obstacles," said Dave Brundage, manager for Triple A Lehigh Valley, where Ruf is playing this season. "I think there are a lot of things to his game that he needed to improve along the way, especially getting a chance to play leftfield as much as possible. He's always been a first baseman, and starting with a new position with his work ethic and the way he goes about his business is admirable."

This season with the IronPigs, Ruf entered an Independence Day doubleheader batting .264, with a .342 on-base percentage, .407 slugging percentage, 21 doubles, seven homers and 44 RBI. While he is always working on his offensive approach, Ruf said he has been more focused on improving in the outfield with Lehigh Valley.

"I've worked on quite a few things, more defensive work than anything in trying to learn a new position," Ruf said. "I'm working in batting practice every day shagging and trying to read some flights on the ball and stuff like that, and trying to prepare myself mentally to make the right play out there."

Although his power numbers and average are not where they were last season, neither Brundage nor Ruf seems to be concerned. Right now, the focus for the 6-3, 225-pound prospect is to continue to improve in the outfield. With the strides he has made so far, Ruf thinks he can contribute to a Phillies outfield that has lacked consistency all season.

"I think I could help them in a number of ways this season, whether it's having quality at-bats or whatever it may be," Ruf said. "It's hard to pinpoint one specific area where you can help. A lot of specific things go into winning baseball games and it's more than one player; it's the whole clubhouse and a bunch of different factors."

Even though Ruf will turn 27 on July 28, he said there is no urgency to be called up to the majors. No matter his age, he thinks he can contribute and help the Phillies win games, whenever that may be.

Brundage thinks Ruf will be an everyday player in the majors in a few years, and the experience he receives in Lehigh Valley will only help his career down the road.

"I think he will tell us when he is ready to join the Phillies. With his bat, his defensive play and the way he goes about, he will tell us when he is ready," Brundage said. "At every level, there is an adjustment to getting comfortable and getting in a situation where you can succeed. His time will come when he is ready."

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