Tuesday, July 28, 2015

For Darin Ruf, two straight starts breed production

Darin Ruf reached base five times in two starts, and that could earn him more playing time.

For Darin Ruf, two straight starts breed production

Darin Ruf. (Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)
Darin Ruf. (Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)

ANAHEIM, Calif. — The best game of Darin Ruf's abbreviated major-league season ended Monday with Grady Sizemore’s pinch-hitting for the 28-year-old Ruf in the ninth inning. That raised questions about Ryne Sandberg’s faith in Ruf, until the Phillies manager reinserted Ruf into Tuesday’s lineup against the Los Angeles Angels.

Ruf played first and batted eighth in a 7-2 defeat. The use of a designated hitter benefited Sandberg, who could slide Ryan Howard into that role. All Ruf did was reach base three more times. He has a .722 OPS in 46 plate appearances in spite of a .194 batting average. That details how Ruf's on-base and slugging skills can be valuable.

He could appear in Sandberg's lineup again Wednesday for a third straight start.

"We'll see," Sandberg said. "He swung the bat well. That was good to see."

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Ruf homered and walked in Monday’s 5-3 loss to the New York Mets. That marked just his second extra-base hit in 31 plate appearances since his recall.

“It was good to see Darin drive the ball like he did, in the middle of the field like that,” Sandberg said. “It was impressive with opposite field.”

Sandberg noted an adjustment in Ruf’s approach. Pitchers were succeeding with pitches away against Ruf, who attempted to pull them. He exhibited more patience. Sandberg has not found Ruf regular playing time with Howard’s recent improved stroke and a crowded outfield rotation.

San Francisco will start lefthander Madison Bumgarner in Friday's series opener. That means Ruf, with some productive efforts, could win significant time this week.

Have a question? Tweet @MattGelb for possible use in a future mailbag.

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