Last season was not a good one for Philadelphia Phillies catcher Carlos Ruiz. After a career year in 2012, Ruiz missed the first 25 games of 2013 with a suspension for taking Adderall. He never recovered from the missed time, struggling to produce the way he had the previous season. However, nothing stands in Ruiz’s way this year, as he enters 2014 healthy and with an exemption allowing him to take Adderall this season.
As he plays one of the most demanding positions in baseball, Ruiz would be one of the most adversely affected players with ADHD. ADHD no doubt has a negative affect on catchers, who are in charge of running the pitching staff, calling the pitches, and being prepared to catch every pitch. Any player would be aided by taking Adderall, however players such as Ruiz and former teammate Shane Victorino would be at disadvantages without it. Last season’s tearful apology by Ruiz for his suspension should erase any doubt that Ruiz is taking the Adderall as a PED instead of for his ADHD.
The player affectionately known as “Chooch” averaged 118 games a season since he took over as starter in 2007, except for last season when he only played in 92 games. While the Phillies missed his offense last season, the most important thing the Phillies need from Ruiz is his work behind the plate. As far back as 2008 Ruiz was considered one of the top defensive catchers in baseball, and has received praise from the likes of Roy Halladay on his ability to call a game. Therefore, a pitching staff that will feature plenty of young arms will greatly benefit from Ruiz’s constant presence behind home plate.
Considering that Ruiz almost matched his 2011 totals last season, his offense should be improved this season. The Phillies need all the offense they can get after all, as run support for their starters has been an issue. This makes Ruiz not only crucial to the team’s defense but also its offense. Ultimately, the best case scenario regarding Ruiz’s offense is for him to become the batter he becomes in the post season. In other words, the Phillies need señor octubre to become señor abril, señor mayo, señor junio…. well, you get the picture.
The return of a fully physically and mentally healthy Ruiz goes beyond statistics. Lately the Phillies clubhouse has not been a happy place. As Cole Hamels said in the offseason, a lot of finger pointing was going around, and Johnathan Papelbon did not do the team any favors with his comments. Ruiz is the type of player to take responsibility for his actions, as he did with his suspension, and his struggles no doubt weighed on his mind. As he heads into this season without any distractions (in part thanks to the Adderall) Ruiz can help to create a healthier atmosphere in the locker room.
As the Grapefruit League games start, Ruiz is only focused on the upcoming season, leaving a forgettable 2013 behind him. After a season where he was only half himself playing only half the time, Ruiz is more than ready to prove he can still play the way he has in the past. One thing is clear, the fans will be happy to see “Chooch” behind home plate come Opening Day.