August 31, 2016
When the Phillies return to Citizens Bank Park on Friday, following a day off in their schedule on Thursday, they will have the ability to bolster their bench for the season’s last month.
Major league rosters expand in September; teams can go from the usual 25-man roster to as many as 40 players. Manager Pete Mackanin said the Phils will have “most likely three” additions when they begin a three-game series with the Atlanta Braves on Friday, although he wouldn’t specify names since those players have not been informed.
“A couple of relievers, maybe a hitter,” Mackanin said.
UPDATE: Tom Housenick of the Allentown Morning Call identified those players following the IronPigs 4-3 win over Pawtucket on Wednesday night.
With both Triple-A Lehigh Valley and Double-A Reading likely headed toward the postseason in their respective leagues, the Phillies aren’t likely to raid their top two minor league rosters in the next two weeks.
But Darin Ruf and relievers Colton Murray (who has been up with the Phils this season) Patrick Schuster (a lefty claimed off waivers earlier this month) should all serve a purpose on the big league roster immediately. Ruf, hitting .298 with a .360 OBP and 20 home runs in 94 games at Lehigh Valley entering Wednesday, could add some punch (perhaps in left field, where he has played quite a bit in Triple-A) to a comatose Phillies offense while Murray and Schuster will help ease the load of the big-league relief corps.
Double-A catching prospect Jorge Alfaro (up for a day last week) and outfield Roman Quinn (who is reportedly recovering quickly from a minor concussion last weekend) could join the Phillies later in the month. Both players are on the 40-man roster.
But then there are guys like Cody Asche, Taylor Featherston, and Darnell Sweeney, four players on the 40-man roster who have played in the major leagues in the last year but might not play very much if they are recalled to the big leagues in September. So, to steal Mackanin’s words regarding another player that has been strapped to his bench for most of the year, “What’s the point?”
“I can’t give playing time to a lot of guys,” Mackanin said. “Perhaps guys who have earned the opportunity to come up, maybe that’s the main reason for it. For the prospects – we’re not going to bring up a prospect to sit. We want him to play.”
In the current major league outfield, Aaron Altherr and Odubel Herrera are expected to continue to get regular playing time in September. Perhaps Quinn works his way into the mix with Peter Bourjos and others, so it wouldn’t seem like there’s a clear spot for Ruf or Asche, unless they’re back strictly as pinch hitters.
Elsewhere, Freddy Galvis and Cesar Hernandez have pretty firm grips on their jobs in the middle infield (or perhaps this is a better way to state it: there are no middle infield prospects on the 40-man roster ready to push them), Tommy Joseph is in line for the bulk of first base starts, and Cameron Rupp is continuing to develop as a formidable power threat in his first full season as a starter in the major leagues. There are only eight spots for position players in the lineup, so there obviously isn’t room for everyone.
“It's a tough situation,” Mackanin said when asked specifically about Ruf. “There are so many players; you've Asche, you've got Ruf, you've got Goeddel, you've got Herrera, you've got Altherr. I would like to give (Ruf) another chance but there are so many guys we have to look at. I don't know what we're going to do.”
But Ruf could work his way into the lineup as soon as Friday, unless Mackanin prefers Jimmy Paredes for some reason.
Ruf, who turned 30 a month ago, has been pretty much a victim of bad timing in his career since basically an older version of Tommy Joseph. When Ruf was closer to Joseph’s age (or even this season began, really) the Phillies were still committed to giving Ryan Howard regular playing time.
In the two years since former manager Ryne Sandberg’s infamous three-game benching of Howard in July of 2014, Ruf started more than three games in a row just five times. Even this year, after outplaying Howard in spring training, Ruf never started more than two games in a row in the first five weeks of the season, before he switched places with Joseph and was optioned to Triple-A.
The only time Ruf played regularly in the big leagues came three seasons ago, when he started 70 of the Phillies final 74 games after Howard underwent knee surgery in July. Ruf hit .245 with an .810 OPS and 14 home runs in those 70 games.
Perhaps when Ruf arrives on Friday he will have the opportunity to see extended big league playing time for the first time in 2016. Then again, if Quinn is added to the roster in a couple of weeks, he, too, is a candidate to get worked into the outfield mix.
Once again, there are only so many at-bats to go around.
The rosters for the 2016 Arizona Fall League, where dozens of big league rosters continue their development, were announced on Wednesday afternoon.
The Phillies are sending three pitchers to the Scottsdale Scorpions – right-handers Victor Arano and Miguel Nunez, left-hander Brandon Liebrandt – as well as second baseman Scott Kingery, third baseman Mitch Walding, and outfielder Aaron Brown.
Outfielder Andrew Pullin was originally on the list, and it's possible he could be placed back on the Phils AFL roster, but he was placed on the disabled list at Double-A earlier this week with an elbow injury.