Sunday, February 14, 2016

Manuel says he sent a strong message to Ruiz

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Charlie Manuel spoke for the first time to Carlos Ruiz Tuesday about the catcher's 25-game suspension for violating Major League Baseball's substance abuse policy.

Manuel says he sent a strong message to Ruiz

Phillies catcher Carlos Ruiz. (Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)
Phillies catcher Carlos Ruiz. (Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Charlie Manuel spoke for the first time to Carlos Ruiz Tuesday about the catcher's 25-game suspension for violating Major League Baseball's substance abuse policy.

"I got on him pretty good and I think he reacted pretty good," Manuel said after his team's first official spring-training workout Wednesday. "I trust him. I don't think he'll ever do it again based on how he reacted and some of the things I said to him. He definitely was shook up and you could tell he felt real bad about what happened."

The suspension was announced in late November and the Inquirer's Matt Gelb reported that Ruiz had tested positive for Adderrall, an amphetatime used to enhance the concentration level of people with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

Players with a medical clearance can use Adderrall or Ritalin, but Ruiz did not have such a clearance and twice failed tests that revealed he had used a banned amphetamine.

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After an excruciatingly uncomfortable and repetitive seven-minute session with the media Wednesday just beyond the left-field wall at Bright House Field, Ruiz broke down in tears.

"For me, it's hard, man," Ruiz said as sweat bubbled on his nose. "I lose something for 25 games and I want to be on the field. I want to play. At the same time, I feel like I have the support of my good friends. It'll be great to come back and do my best. I got caught two times and I have to pay for that."

Ruiz, 34, got caught the second time despite the fact he knew after the first failed drug test that he could be tested up to eight times per season.

"It's very difficult having to explain," Ruiz said. "I love baseball. I love my city, Philadelphia and Panama. I want to do my best and show everybody ... I'll do my best."

Manuel said his all-star catcher was distressed during their one-on-one conversation Tuesday.

"When I talked to him, he seemed like he was really hurt over it," Manuel said. "He told me, 'I will never do it no more. That was terrrible and I shouldn't do that.' "

The manager admitted he was upset when he first got the news during the offseason because it meant the Phillies would have to spend the first month without the player who was arguably their MVP last season.

"That's a good argument there because he stood out," Manuel said. "Yeah, I was upset when I first heard that because Chooch is a big part of our team. About the last three years he has developed into one of the best catchers in baseball. I think (Yadier) Molina (of St. Louis) has definitely improved his hitting, but Chooch can play right there with him. He's gotten that good."

Ruiz can participate in spring-training games, but Manuel said he would likely see a lot of action in minor-league games because the Phillies have to get Erik Kratz and other catchers ready for the start of the season. Barring rainouts, Ruiz will be eligible to return April 28 against the Mets in New York. Only then can he truly begin to answer the question about how much, if at all, the Adderrall contributed to his career season last year when he hit .325 with 16 home runs and 68 RBIs.

Manuel said he expects Ruiz, who is in the final year of his contract, to remain among the game's elite catchers.

"I definitely think so," the manager said. "I think the last couple years, he's really learned how to hit and take the ball the other way. He can hit a fastball, especially if you double up on a fastball and things like that. Chooch can hurt you."

The manager meant that Ruiz has the ability to punish opposing teams with his bat. For now, however, he is only hurting the Phillies and that was clearly causing an acute heartache for the catcher on the first official day of spring training.


Inquirer Columnist
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