Darin Ruf off to horrible spring start for the Phillies

Darin Ruf fields a ground ball in the outfield during spring training drills.
Moving from first base to left field may be impacting Darin Ruf’s performance at the plate. (Yong Kim/The Inquirer)

The Philadelphia Phillies organization never expected much from outfield prospect Darin Ruf. Even after he exploded last season in the minor leagues, Ruf was not a guarantee to make the big-league club this season, and he is not helping matters this spring with his performance thus far. Darin Ruf has started the spring in a 3-for-23 slump and has only managed one extra-base hit. To make matters worse, he looks lost in left field. So there’s a good chance the converted first baseman will spend another season in triple-A rather than starting in left field with the Phils.

To be realistic, it’s rare that a player comes out of nowhere to hit 38 homeruns in any season, even if it is in double-A. Ruf, a 20th-round pick in 2009, did just that last season, and with his success came expectations he’s never dealt with before. Learning a new position has not helped matters, and many people have speculated that being uncomfortable in the field has led to his recent hitting woes.

Too much change can have that effect. The player nicknamed Babe Ruf certainly has not helped himself by starting off in such a slump. A .250 average could keep the media and fans away for some time, even if he was not hitting home runs. But in a spring where the Phillies’ other outfield prospect has been tearing the cover off of the ball and where veterans such as Roy Halladay and Ryan Howard have returned successfully, Darin Ruf’s struggles are getting all the attention.

In all likelihood, it seems Ruf may have to turn back the clock and regain his minor-league success before he can contribute in any way for the Phillies. The talent is there, but he needs to get his head right to achieve success in the majors. Remember, not many people even knew Ruf’s name this time last year. With success comes great responsibility, and the sooner Darin Ruf learns how to handle this responsibility the better the Phillies chances will be in 2013.

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