Phillies Notebook: Amaro considering shoring up outfield

Posted: September 13, 2013

AFTER TRADING away Hunter Pence and Shane Victorino last summer, the Phillies entered the offseason without a surefire starter in any of their three outfield positions. They had no proven veterans.

One could make the argument that the Phils are in decent shape a year later, with viable starters in all three outfield positions for 2014. But one would be wrong in assuming Domonic Brown, Ben Revere and Darin Ruf are locks.

"If we have an outfield of Ruf, Revere and Brown, or Brown, Revere and Ruf, is it good enough?" general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said yesterday, while looking out toward the outfield spots at Citizens Bank Park. "Is it good enough defensively? I don't know that. It can be. That's an option for us, I guess. But we're going to try to do as well as we can, do as much as we can."

So will the Phillies be shopping for an outfielder again?

"Do we have to? I don't know that," Amaro said. "But I think it's something we'll look to try to do."

Although he'll miss the final 2 1/2 months of the season while recovering from a broken foot, Revere has hit .298 with a .335 OBP in the last 2 years. He brings speed to the lineup and also covers a lot of ground in the outfield, although he lacks arm strength.

Brown was an All-Star this season. He would seem to be as big of a lock as anyone on the roster to be penciled into everyday duty in 2014.

But what about Ruf?

Ruf, 27, is not unlike Brown a year ago. He's had chances in the major leagues, but he's never been given a full-fledged opportunity for a long stretch, either.

Entering yesterday, Ruf was hitting .262 with a .350 OBP and .879 OPS with 16 home runs in 68 major league games. Since the All-Star break, only Washington's Jayson Werth (13) has hit more home runs than Ruf's 11 among National League players.

Amaro doesn't seem as concerned with Ruf's defense as he was this spring, using the words "comfort" and "adequate" in his analysis. So how does Amaro evaluate Ruf's offensive contributions?

"Obviously he can be streaky at times," Amaro said. "The league is adjusting to him, he's going to have to adjust to the league a little bit. But you can't teach power. And that's obviously an element of our team we don't have - particularly power from the right side. So he's a guy who becomes very valuable because he has that element."

Earlier in the afternoon, manager Ryne Sandberg spoke at length about Ruf's progress as a hitter. Sandberg praised Ruf's ability to use the whole field and make adjustments within a game, while saying he just needs to make more consistent contact.

Ruf's 55 strikeouts are the fourth most among NL players since the break.

"Will he be an everyday player for us, who knows?" Amaro said. "But we're giving him a chance to be that guy. So far he's handling it pretty well. We're not going to hand over jobs to people right now for 2014. Because our job is to put together the best possible lineup we can. Can he be that guy? Possibly. He can be a part of the mix. Can he be a guy who plays left, plays first, and right and get 400 or 350 at-bats? Maybe. A lot of it depends on the makeup of our outfield overall and our team overall."

Upon taking over as manager last month, Sandberg somewhat surprisingly offered centerfield as a spot the Phillies needed to find stability in going forward. So perhaps the Phils pursue a centerfielder this winter while using Revere and Ruf as a platoon in left with Brown in right.

Or maybe Ruf does what Werth did in 2008, beginning the season in a platoon and eventually winning an everyday job by way of his bat.

"We could add a bat and make people share positions," Amaro said. "A lot of it depends on the overall makeup of the club. Sometimes, having flexibility is good."

Among the crop of free-agent outfielders this winter: lefthanded hitters Jacoby Ellsbury, Shin-Soo Choo and Curtis Granderson, righthanded hitters Michael Morse and Corey Hart and switch-hitter Carlos Beltran. Of those names, Choo, Granderson and Ellsbury have all played considerable time in centerfield in the last 2 years.

What's in a name?

Ryne Sandberg is a Hall of Famer, but people still occasionally butcher his name and call him "Ryan." Sandberg's parents named him after former New York Yankees All-Star pitcher Ryne Duren, who also pitched for the Phillies in his 10-year, big-league career.

Sandberg said he's had the opportunity to meet Duren twice.

"As a minor leaguer, probably in 1979, my second year in pro ball, Ryne Duren was making the rounds through the minor leagues talking about alcoholism and things like that," Sandberg said. "He actually came and spoke to the minor league system at the Carpenter Complex and I was right there in the room. Afterwards, I went up and introduced myself. 'Ryne, I'm named after you. Ryne Sandberg. Nice to meet you.' I'm 19 years old. People mispronounced my name, yours is the one responsible for that. That was cool.

"So then it's probably 1989 or 1990, he was making rounds for something through Chicago, so now I'm 8 years into the big leagues and all that. I'm taking batting practice and he wanders up to the batting cage and goes, 'Hey Ryne, remember me? I'm Ryne Duren, you were named after me.' Tables turned a little bit. He came up all bashful. It was pretty cool."

The late, great Chicago Cubs broadcaster Harry Caray is responsible for the nickname "Ryno," which Sandberg still prefers so much he has asked Phils players to call him by the moniker.

"Ryno" is actually Sandberg's second baseball nickname. He was called "Sandy" as a minor leaguer in the Phillies system in the late 70s/early 80s.

Like the female lead in "Grease?"

"I hope it had nothing to do with 'Grease,' " Sandberg said incredulously.

Sandberg, a 20th-round pick of the Phillies in 1978, officially signed his first pro contract with the team on June 15, 1978. A day later, "Grease" was released in theaters.


On Twitter: @ryanlawrence21

Blog: ph.ly/HighCheese

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