Darin Ruf went south for winter ball in Venezuela, which started last month on the 11th and runs to almost Thanksgiving. How has he done so far?
Note: My articles are designed to represent a baseball-man’s thinking, the view from the dugout and the GM’s box. Most fans do not consider the budget, prospects on the radar, the stick-glove-or-power requirements, the track record, the competition and the intangibles.
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Events will dictate the number from 1 to 4 each for November and December. January to mid-February will be every other week, and it will be weekly after that until the year begins.
Only on a trial basis due to a strong response, the scheduled articles will be supplemented with special fill-ins between main postings. Continuation is based on reasonable numbers, which appears to be extremely possible.
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Amaro’s Trouble Spots:
Third base and 3 outfield roles are open for the taking, which offers everyone a major shot, including Ruf. Rube Amaro could acquire a centerfielder, using a platoon in both corner fly-ball zones. Dom Brown and John Mayberry Jr. could patrol right field, while Juan Pierre teams up with Ruf in left. And the rookie could give Ryan Howard an occasional rest at first. Also, there have been rumors about 3B Alex Rodriguez and CF Curtis Granderson, which followed the Yankees’ quick exit from the postseason. In other words, New York would ship them out with dispatch, picking up millions they are due. However, it would take a spectacular deal with 3B Cody Asche, working his left-side stick up to Triple-A Lehigh Valley in 2013.
Before harboring expectations for A-Rod or Granderson–remember–the Yanks did not even give A.J. Burnett away cheaply. It is extremely doubtful that Amaro will be willing to pay $10M minimum per year for either of them. Both are star players that would have to be replaced, which means winter’s freeze will chill their hot-headed fans. Meanwhile, keep in mind, clubs, scouts and baseball men from the Phils were not sold on Howard. Ed Wade and Pat Gillick tried unsuccessfully to barter Ryan. The red pinstripes had to trade Jim Thome instead. The same is true of “Babe” Ruf, who–like the Big Piece–is older and a minor-league basher. Ryno is considered the exception.
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** Will be a FA after 2013 & * 5 tours with a $27.5M AAV (Average Annual Value)
Don’t expect to hear any remarks that remind you of Dom Brown from last season, where Rube said he would not go north after camp. To avoid any controversy, the brain trust will say Ruf has a chance, like everybody else. However, he will enter Clearwater with a ticket for Lehigh Valley to get experience in leftfield. There will be no rush and they will want him to be in the lineup every day. The young upstart will have an ample opportunity throughout March to impress management, but odds are he’ll need a minimum of 3 months as an IronPig.
During his 1st 12 AB, the streaky Ruf had only an RBI double to start for the Tiburones in the Venezuelan League. That was followed by a 6 for 17 run (.353) with 4 homeruns and 6 RBI before a hitless 13 at-bats. Currently, he is on an 11 for 30 streak (.367) with 5 blasts and 12 RBI, which includes November 4. His appearances have been: 12 in LF, 5 as DH and 3 at 1B. He hit 3rd once (contest 10 of 20) and the rest were in the cleanup slot. He has crushed 9 bombs with 19 RBI so far. The slugger was scheduled to complete his time there before November 22, and there are 8 remaining games, including the 21st. However, the league does not end at that time.
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If he is part of the opening-day 25, he will have earned it. He has a huge mountain to climb in March, which has now become a bit less daunting. But even before January, Amaro will move methodically for a veteran set-up hurler, and a powerful right-handed stick in that exact order. When you consider his swapping options, he has minor leaguers but his only surplus is young relievers. The GM will do everything he can to locate an experienced hitter, because he wants someone he can definitely count on. Remember, the league catches up with these new heroes when they find their holes–like Mayberry, Antonio Bastardo, Vance Worley and Mike Stutes. “Babe” Ruf produced during his first impression, like Howard, and he will probably–at least–push the decision makers for a July call-up.
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