Phillies Notebook: Ruiz benefits from boost in the batting order

Posted: September 20, 2013

A MONTH AGO, Ryne Sandberg wrote out his fourth lineup card since taking over managerial duties and made a somewhat drastic change. Sandberg slotted Carlos Ruiz, who had been hitting in the bottom third of the lineup, into the second spot.

"Experimenting," Sandberg said at the time. "I like his ability to use the whole field. He has a good right-center stroke when he's right."

Ruiz, who was coming off a 4-for-4 performance, raising his average from .250 to .265, hasn't slowed down since moving up in the order. Ruiz, who hit fourth last night against Miami, entered the day hitting .337 with a .394 on-base percentage, 13 extra-base hits and 22 RBI in 23 games since Sandberg moved him up in the lineup.

Ruiz' two-run single on Tuesday night keyed a three-run third inning that set the tone for the Phillies' 6-4 victory. He's driven in at least two runs in five of his 12 games in September.

"I think he's just confident," Sandberg said. "I think he's confident with where he's at, and he's swinging a hot bat. He just continues to come up with guys on base, and, right now, that's his knack and what he's hot doing. He continues to have his opportunities and he's the right guy up there in those situations."

Ruiz, who turns 35 in January, can become a free agent for the first time in his career after the World Series. General manager Ruben Amaro Jr. has said the Phillies most likely would wait until after the season to address the catching situation, but that doesn't mean they couldn't re-sign Ruiz in October, before he hits the open market.

Ruiz, who missed most of the first 2 1/2 months of the season while serving a 25-game suspension (for using Adderall) and then while on the disabled list (hamstring), has appeared to regain his All-Star swing in the final 3 months of 2013.

Before last night, Ruiz was hitting .333 with a .381 OBP and a .901 OPS in 37 games since Aug. 1, and .298 in 69 games since returning from the DL in mid-June.

His numbers have improved dramatically, however, since moving up in Sandberg's lineup. In the 26 starts Ruiz made in the second, fourth or fifth spots in the order in 2013, he's hitting .314 with three home runs and 10 doubles.

Where Ruiz plays in 2014 is still unknown, but Sandberg thinks the righthanded-hitting catcher is an ideal fit in the Phillies' lefthanded-heavy lineup.

"I'm pretty confident that he'd be a nice piece next year," Sandberg said. "The way he's playing now at his age, the way he works, a quality bat from the right side - I think that all comes into play going into next year, along with his experience and leadership. How many games would he catch would be something [to consider]. You need a backup catcher to handle the rest of the load without a big drop-off there. From what I've seen, he's playing as about as well as he can play."

Ruiz is in the final year of a 4-year deal that paid him $13.35 million. Entering the final week of the 2013 season, Ruiz has hit .300 with an .821 OPS during the length of that deal.

Kyle Kendrick is expected to play catch tomorrow and hopes to return to the rotation at some point in the final 10 games of the season after being scratched with shoulder soreness for last night's game.

The MRI results on Kendrick's shoulder revealed rotator-cuff tendinitis. He will seek a second opinion today in New York with Mets team doctor David Alt-chek.

"It put my mind at ease," Kendrick said of the MRI results. "I hope to start playing catch on Friday and hopefully make my last two starts, but we'll see how I feel tomorrow."

Sandberg said the team has yet to determine whether Kendrick will remain in the rotation, however.

"He was told to play catch and toss, so that's a good thing for him," Sandberg said. "[We'll] leave it at that for right now."

Kendrick, who is in the second year of a 2-year, $7.5 million deal, has a 6.49 ERA in 13 starts since the beginning of July. He is eligible for salary arbitration this winter and due to become a free agent after the 2014 season.

The Phillies will enjoy their final off day in the schedule today before ending the 2013 season with 10 games in 10 days, beginning tomorrow with the first of the final three games at Citizens Bank Park against the New York Mets. The Phils close the season with three games in Miami and four in Atlanta . . . Cole Hamels can reach two milestones when he takes the mound against the Mets tomorrow. Hamels is one win away from the 100th of his career and four strikeouts short of 1,500 . . . Hamels (8-13, 3.48) will pitch opposite Daisuke Matsuzaka (1-3, 6.12); righthanders Tyler Cloyd (2-5, 5.06) and Dillon Gee (11-10, 3.47) will face off Saturday; and Cliff Lee (14-6, 2.95) will go up against Carlos Torres (3-5, 3.48) on Sunday.


On Twitter: @ryanlawrence21

Blog: ph.ly/HighCheese

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