After Mike Lieberthal lands on the 15-day DL, the Phillies will turn to an insurance policy who led the International League in hitting (.385), OPS (1.085) and was throwing out close to 50 percent of base-stealers.
Beerleaguer feels like a proud father this morning after hearing word that Carlos Ruiz has finally made the big leagues. He’s a player I’ve monitored the last couple seasons, watched him play winter ball in the Dominican Republic (pictured), and stayed up late to watch him represent Panama in the WBC.
At 27, Ruiz is peaking in a way nobody could have expected. His offense has gone off the charts, and his arm is among the best in the minors. He’s never been considered a top prospect by any of the major publications, possibly because of his advanced age.
A converted second baseman that got into baseball late, he was signed as an amateur free agent in December of 1998. In 2004, he supplanted U Miami-product and Pat Burrell/Jason Michaels teammate Russ Jacobson as Reading's starting catcher, and that's when the team started to take notice. In 2005, he had some injury problems, including a broken leg he suffered in a home-plate collision. Since then, he's played almost non-stop.
At the Winter Tour in Reading (the place where Ruiz earned the nickname 'Chooch' by teammates), Charlie Manuel and Pat Gillick both said he had a wide-open opportunity to become a major-league catcher with the Phillies, leaving it up to him to prove himself on the field.
Unless the Phillies would rather dip into the free agent pool when Lieberthal becomes a free agent, Ruiz is the primary in-house answer for next season. If he can produce at this level, it would be an outstanding boost to an organization that can’t afford to spend on free agent position players.
My support of Ruiz isn’t just a man-crush. He represents something the Phils have not generated: an unheralded project player who was developed, step-by-step, by the Phillies minor league system.
If he can perform, Ruiz has a chance to become a key player for the Phillies, perhaps as soon as this season. Funny how it wasn’t even planned that way.
Bonus material: His favorite hobby is fishing. Favorite baseball idol - you guessed it - Pudge.