Ruf makes most of first MLB start

The Phillies' bench gave rookie Darin Ruf the silent treatment after his first major-league home run. (Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)

Darin Ruf’s 40th home run of an unforgettable summer of 2012 landed in the waiting hands of Randy Johnson. 

No, not the five-time Cy Young Award winner Randy Johnson. Just a guy who happened to share the same name who made the drive into Philly from Toms River, N.J.

After the Phillies 6-3 win on Tuesday, Ruf welcomed Johnson into the foyer of the home clubhouse. The rookie got a cherished piece of memorabilia; the fan got a chance to meet a big league ballplayer.

For Ruf, it went a little better than the reception he got when he returned to the dugout after hitting the second-inning, game-tying home run.

The 26-year-old Ruf, who hit 39 home runs at Double A Reading, stepped to the plate for his first at-bat in his first start after two weeks in the big leagues. He worked the count full against Washington lefty Ross Detwiler before blasting a ball into the left field seats.

When he returned to the dugout, he saw what was going on and briefly smiled before heading down the dugout steps. Other then pitching coach Rich Dubee, who apparently wasn’t in on the gag, fist-bumping Ruf, there was no one there to greet Ruf. 

And it went on for a good five minutes.

“That was very loving of them,” Ruf said. “Longest silent treatment of all time, I guess. Probably for all the times I suggested we do it to someone in Double-A. I guess I had it coming to me.”

“He said that made him feel bad when the bat boy blew him off,” manager Charlie Manuel said with a laugh. “He figured he was a young guy, he’ll talk to me. He blew him off. Didn’t even look at him.”

Eventually, the Phillies celebrates Ruf’s home run.

After hitting a home run for his first big league hit, and also getting both the ball and validation from his teammates, it was a winning first start for Ruf. He’ll get another shot on Wednesday, when Manuel said he’d play Ruf against when Washington puts another lefthander, John Lannan, on the mound.

“I’m just trying to approach it like any other game,” said Ruf, who could get a tryout of sorts in the final week of games. “I’m not trying to look at it as a tryout by any means. Just going out there and playing baseball.”

Ruf, a first baseman turned left fielder, made one putout on a fly ball to left in the fourth inning. In the fifth, Ryan Zimmerman hit a one-out single to left that Ruf threw to cutoff man Jimmy Rollins, rather than trying to nab fellow rookie Bryce Harper at the plate.

He’s played less than 30 games in left field.

“I don’t know,” Ruf said on when he expects to feel comfortable as an outfielder. “I’m planning on playing winter ball, so maybe when I get done with that, get a nice offseason under my belt knowing that left field is something I’m going to have to do next year.

“Coming into this year I didn’t ever foresee having to play outfield so I just went about my business like I was going to play first base. I need to get a little quicker, things like that, in the offseason and approach it like I’m going to be an outfielder.”

Ruf received a hearty ovation when he returned to left field in the top half of the third inning on Tuesday night.

“It was awesome,” Ruf said. “I don’t know how to act in those situations. You can’t really prepare yourself for it so just kind of thanked them, tipped my cap. That’s how I do it I guess.”

Ruf is learning on the job. Tuesday wasn’t a bad first day.