INDIAN WELLS, Calif. — The end is in sight for Darin Ruf. He could be home in Nebraska with his wife and celebrating Thanksgiving in their new house.
The Venezuelan winter league runs through December but Ruf will not stay for it all. On Wednesday, he played in his 177th game of the season; a journey that started April 5 in Reading and ultimately took him to Philadelphia.
He's hit 51 home runs in 619 at-bats.
It's almost time to recharge for what could be a pivotal spring in Florida, and GM Ruben Amaro Jr. has but one regret.
"I kind of wish he would have had more of an opportunity to play at the end of the year," Amaro said.
Was that a slight against manager Charlie Manuel? No, Amaro said.
"I understand the circumstances," Amaro continued. "He wanted to play some veteran players. Who wouldn't want to play Juan Pierre? He was hitting .310 and getting on base."
It's just if Amaro had more opportunities to evaluate Ruf at the major-league level, perhaps there could be some clarity on this winter's strategy. Amaro believes he could piece together an outfield if he only acquires a centerfielder this winter. That plan is tenuous because there are more than a few unknowns among the current outfield candidates.
Ruf is chief among them. Amaro receives frequent reports from Jorge Velandia, the team's assistant minor-league field coordinator who also serves as GM for Tiburones de La Guaira, Ruf's winter ball team.
"He keeps telling me he can play left field," Amaro said.
The Phillies will put more trusted sets of eyes on Ruf in the coming weeks before he departs Venezuela. Charley Kerfeld and Bart Braun, two of Amaro's special assistants, may watch Ruf.
Beyond that, Amaro must decide whether Ruf's development and Domonic Brown's promise are enough to limit outside outfield additions. Whatever the case, Amaro is warming up to the idea of Ruf.
"He can hit, man," Amaro said. "He has power. I like it."
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