NASHVILLE -- The Phillies are in search of outfield help at these winter meetings, but the guy who could possibly help them the most in 2013 is already on their 40-man roster.
That same guy was in attendance at the Opryland Hotel Monday to receive the Jim Bauman Trophy for leading the minor leagues in home runs with 38.
Add in the one home run Darin Ruf hit during the double-A Reading Phillies’ postseason series, the three he hit with the big-league Phillies and the 10 he hit during his 32-game stint in Venezuela and his home run total for 2012 reached an amazing 52.
It’s a number that even the 26-year-old Ruf still has some trouble comprehending.
“I never hit more than 17 in a year, so to get to 50, it’s special,” Ruf said after posing for some photographs with the Bauman trophy and his wife Libby.
The couple also celebrated their first wedding anniversary Monday.
What special things lie ahead for Ruf, a player who was barely a blip on the Phillies’ radar a year ago at this time, remains to be seen. The Phillies need a right-handed power bat and he has proven he is a right-handed power hitter.
With Ryan Howard at first base, the Phillies need Ruf to also prove he can play left field, which was the primary reason he went to Venezuela.
“It was a different experience,” Ruf said when asked about his first exposure to winter ball in South America. “It was really intense. It’s a really emotional game down there. They play maybe 60 or 70 games down there as opposed to 162 over here, so every pitch, every game, every win or loss is that much more important for them to make … the Caribbean Series, which is every team’s goal down there.”
Ruf’s goal for 2013 is clear: Win a job in the Phillies’ starting lineup.
General manager Ruben Amaro Jr. is already on record as saying he believes Ruf can do an adequate job playing either corner outfield position, but he also said he would not hand the young slugger a starting job without it being earned in spring training.
Ruf said he feels more qualified to play left field after his trip to Venezuela.
“I hurt my foot the second game (in Venezuela) and DH’d and play some first base, but once that cleared up, I was out (in left field) almost every day, six days a week for four or five weeks,” Ruf said. “I feel a lot more comfortable in getting to balls I didn’t think I’d be able to get to and knowing maybe a little bit more what I can and can’t get to.
“The ones I was having trouble with initially were the ones that were hit within five feet of me in either direction. Those are the ones that are hit a little harder and are tough to judge. Early on, I’d try to read it right away rather than waiting for the ball to come to me. I think that’s where I learned a little more.”
Ruf said regardless of what Amaro does during this offseason, he will go to Clearwater for spring training believing he can win a job, thanks in part to advice he received from former teammate Juan Pierre.
“I think that has to be every player’s mindset and I’m definitely going to go into spring training trying to win a job,” Ruf said. “All playing through the minor leagues, I’ve played 140 or 150 games a year and I don’t want that to stop now. A lot of guys were saying at the end of the year were saying to me. Juan Pierre, I know he’s going to be with another team, but he was a big influence on me. He’d say, ‘You’re that guy. They’re going to have to fill holes next year and not only do you want to be that guy, but you can be.’ ”