KISSIMMEE, Fla. — Minutes after Phillies batting practice began Thursday at Oscola County Stadium, Darin Ruf felt a twinge in his rib cage and retreated to the visiting clubhouse with assistant athletic trainer Shawn Fcasni.
Ruf, a bench hopeful, was later diagnosed with a strained left oblique. He was removed from the Phillies' lineup against Houston. He will undergo further testing Friday. The injury is one that typically requires weeks of recovery. It could further muddle the Phillies' bench outlook.
Chase Utley suffered an oblique injury during a batting-practice swing last May. His strain was considered a milder one, yet Utley missed 28 games because of the ailment. Teams practice conservatism when treating those injuries.
The Phillies have two locks for their bench — infielder Freddy Galvis and catcher Wil Nieves. Both Kevin Frandsen and John Mayberry Jr. signed guaranteed contracts in the winter. Bobby Abreu must be added to the 25-man roster by March 26 or he can request his release.
Ruf's injury could create opportunity for Tony Gwynn Jr., a non-roster outfielder in camp. The Phillies can choose between an eight-man bullpen or six-man bench in the season's first two weeks while they employ a four-man starting rotation.
Gwynn has impressed team officials this spring. Manager Ryne Sandberg believes Gwynn's speed, defense and bat skills could thrive on a National League bench. Gwynn, 31, did not appear in the majors last season.
Any elongated absence for Ruf could affect Mayberry's status. The Phillies have shopped the 30-year-old outfielder this winter and spring. The organization was thin on depth even before Ruf's injury, and this could prompt them to retain Mayberry.
Ruf was replaced in Thursday's lineup by minor-league outfielder Steve Susdorf.
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