WASHINGTON -- When the Phillies designated right fielder Delmon Young for assignment on Friday, they also sent a clear message to Darin Ruf. For the last two months of this season, the starting right field job likely will be his.
Ruf was recalled from Triple-A Lehigh Valley in July when Ryan Howard went on the disabled list, and the Phillies want to use the final two months of this season to see whether the 27-year-old outfielder warrants a place in their long-term plans.
"He's going to get opportunities to play and playing time," general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said Friday. "He's got a chance to be a good young hitter for us and we've got to find out about Ruf and [third baseman Cody] Asche and as many young players as we can to find out whether they're going to be viable options for us now and for the future."
Ruf was one of the few bright spots in Saturday night's 8-5 loss to the Nationals as he smoked a two-run homer to left field in the second inning. He said after the game that the extra pressure with Young's departure hasn't affected him.
"I don't really think that way. I'm just trying to play as well as I can every single night," Ruf said. "Whatever happens, happens. If my role on the team next year is a little different than what it is right now, then I'll be accepting of that. If they're counting on me to step up and provide a bigger role on the team, then hopefully I can do that as well."
Manager Charlie Manuel said that he has never been worried about Ruf's bat, but he wanted to see Ruf grow more comfortable in the outfield. Ruf played first base in college and started his first Major League game in right field on Tuesday. He has since started four of the Phillies' past five games in right, including Saturday's game against the Nationals.
"It's going to be a process," Ruf said. "So far I've had some pretty routine balls that everyone should catch, haven't had to make any really difficult decisions or anything like that. ... Hopefully, as I get out there more, I'll see more difficult plays, plays that I might have to make tougher reads on because that's ultimately how you get better out there."
Ruf is hitting .289 with six home runs and 11 RBIs in 97 at-bats with the Phillies this season, but the team likely will put more stock in his play from this point forward. Many players never get a chance to prove themselves at the Major League level, but Ruf is getting that chance.
"This is a great opportunity for him," Manuel said.