"I'm looking forward to really seeing him play," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. "There's an old saying: If you can hit, they will find a place for you. In today's game, that old saying goes a long ways. If you can hit and hit for power, more than likely they'll find a position where you can play."
That is the trick with Ruf. He is primarily a first baseman, but the Phillies started him in left field 29 games late in the season. They want to find him a spot to play, and with Howard beginning the second year of a five-year, $125 million contract extension in 2013, it is pretty clear first base is blocked.
Ruf has had his struggles in left field, but he remains optimistic that with a little more time out there, he can hold his own.
Ruf might get some time there in the final month of the season. He certainly will get more time there in winter ball, where he will play plenty of outfield.
"Every time I get out there, I get a little more comfortable," Ruf said. "The more time I can get shagging ... I know it's going to be a lot different up here, bigger stadiums, bigger parks. You have to get used to the outfield, but it's a challenge I look forward to having.
"As an athlete, you always think you can do the job. You want to be able to do the job. So that's the mindset I have to take into it. Anything else would be a disservice to the Phillies and my teammates and everyone who has given me this opportunity to show what I can do."
But like Manuel said, if Ruf hits, he will find a way into the lineup. Manuel thought about starting Ruf in left field on Monday, but said he wanted to take a look at the slugger first. He wanted to see how he looked tracking fly balls during batting practice and swung the bat.
It's a good swing. He hit 20 home runs in August.
"I was just kind of in the zone," Ruf said about that remarkable month. "I don't know what the right word is, but it was a little weird. Even if you didn't hit a home run, people felt like, 'Wait, what was that? He didn't have a good at-bat?' I don't know. It was a fun month. I had a lot of fun with it. ... I'd go up there and strike out and the fans would still cheer for me. It's a baseball town for you, I guess."