The Philadelphia Inquirer's Matt Gelb delved to find the answer to the Ruf question and went right to the source - manager Ryne Sandberg. Sandberg said it is possible the Phillies could find 300 at-bats for Ruf stating he likes the slugger at first base and Ruf could provide a right-handed bat against left-handed pitching. Sandberg said "we have a lineup for that."
This is all very interesting as it seems that the idea of platooning first baseman Ryan Howard with Ruf isn't all that far fetched. Howard is dreadful against left-handed pitching and is getting worse. He hit .224/.286/.347 against lefties in 2011, dropped to .173/.226/.378 in 2012, and the bottom fell out in 2013 as he hit .173/.218/.321.
The 27-year-old Ruf hit .247/.348/.458 with 14 home runs and 30 RBIs in 251 at-bats last season for the Phillies. The right-hander figures to handle left-handed pitching better than Howard and playing first base would keep Ruf out of the outfield where he is a total defensive liability. Howard has not been able to handle the wear-and-tear of a full season since 2011 so maybe sparing him from the daily grind by inserting Ruf into a platoon is the way to go.
Gelb notes there is redundancy with a potential 25-man roster that features Ruf and John Mayberry Jr. For all those yelling about the resigning of Mayberry might get their way if Ruf shows something in spring training. Gelb points out the Phillies can cut Mayberry with 16 days left in spring training and only be on the hook for one-sixth ($265,000) of the $1.59 million he is owed for the 2014 season.
This is one story-line to watch as spring training opens up in Clearwater in just two days.
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