Every time I go to a minor league ball game I like to project which players on the field might play one day in the major leagues or even what they might do at the next level. Sunday afternoon Baseball Betsy and I went to a Threshers game. Jim Murphy who was benched to make way for the rehabbing Placido Polanco returned to the lineup just in time to take advantage of a rare day at Bright House with the wind blowing hard straight out to center field. You knew some runs were going to be scored when Albert Cartwright led off the bottom of the first with a ball that hit off the top of the yellow home run line in front of the batting eye in dead center field for a long double. Later big Jim Murphy would launch only his sixth home run of the season at Bright House and 15th overall. The ball landed on the berm just to the right of the batters eye in center.
Put big Jim Murphy in Reading next season and he will hit 30 home runs. Book it. Old Municipal Stadium, now called First Energy for the nearby local electric utility company, is a power hitter’s paradise there. When Greg Luzinski played for Reading he hit 33 homers in the Eastern League in 1971. Pat Burrell hit 28 homers for Reading in 1999. A couple of seasons back journeyman Tagg Bozied hit 27 for Reading including 20 of them at First Energy Stadium where the wind always is blowing out and the power alleys are inviting to the home run ball. And from the left side Ryan Howard hit 37 long balls for Reading in 2003.
This season Darin Ruf is the big power bat for Reading. Sunday, he hit his 30th home run of the year but not at Reading but in Akron Ohio to tie all minor league baseball players in home runs. Ruf has 18 homers in Reading and 12 long balls on the road. Even more impressive his homer Sunday gave him 15 home runs each against right-handers and lefties this season. For the month of August with still 12 games left and eight of them at home, he has hit 12 homers in 24 games. Three more games are left in September before the season ends on Labor Day so the sky is still the limit for Darin Ruf’s breakout 2012 season. These final 15 games remaining in the Eastern League schedule might the most important games of Darin Ruf’s career so far.
To me the most important event this month might not be all the home runs Ruf has hit but the fact that he threw out his first base runner of his career from left field at second base trying to stretch a single into a double. Because the Phillies are committed to Ryan Howard at first base for the next four years it is unlikely, barring another injury to Howard, Ruf at 26 year old will ever play first base for the major league Phillies. So recently he has been seeing time in left field. He has played 17 games out there and has handled all 23 putouts and the one assist without an error so far this season. Reports are he will play winter ball in Venezuela to continue his development playing left field.
I would like to see a September outfield at Citizens Bank Park of Darin Ruf in left, Tyson Gillies in center and Domonic Brown in right. Gillies is hitting .313 in his last ten games with Reading. In Sunday’s game Domonic Brown already in right field went 3 for 4 with 4 RBIs to help the Phillies beat the Brewers 8-0. Ruf is not on the 40 man roster but openings exists so he could be added when the rosters are expanded next month. Gillies is the only Reading player currently on the Phillies 40 man.
Wouldn’t it be nice to look forward to some games in September with a 26 year old right handed power hitter in left, a speedy 24 year old left handed bat in center and a 25 year old lefty handed line drive hitter in right. That would project as an outfield of the future to give the Phillies a nice balance of youth to go with the aging veterans who are under contract for next season in the infield and behind home plate.