PHILADELPHIA -- In mid-May, Phillies catcher Carlos Ruiz was hitting .161. By early June, he was up to .305. By Sunday night, he was back down to .226.
Then on Monday against the Cubs, the 30-year old Ruiz delivered a two-run homer in the second inning and an RBI double in the fourth, clapping his hands in excitement as he reached second base.
Ruiz's defense, throwing and game calling have all improved. But Phils manager Charlie Manuel wants to see fewer streaks and more consistency from his backstop, who he thinks should hit .260-.270 with 10-15 homers annually. From 2006-08, his first three years in the bigs, Ruiz hit .242 with just 13 homers in 880 plate appearances.
"I think the biggest thing about that is he needs to study his hitting more," Manuel said. "You are your best hitting coach."
Ruiz, who hit just .133 (11-for-83) with a .381 on-base-plus-slugging percentage from June 9 through Sunday, is certainly trying. He has been taking extra swings during batting practice and in the cages beforehand, working on taking the ball the other way and being more selective.
On his double Monday, he pulled a slider down the left-field line; the home run went to left-center field. Still, he thinks the additional work paid off.
"Definitely today I was here early and taking swings in the cage and extra swings on the field, and I feel good," Ruiz said Monday. "Not every time, but when you feel good at the plate, you can look for one pitch especially, and then you can hit.
Manuel, a former hitting coach, said that Ruiz's swing gets long when he slumps. To get around on inside fastballs, then, Ruiz sometimes gives away the outer portion of the plate, something the skipper said he must rectify.
For his part, Ruiz knows that a good arm and relationship with the pitching staff are not enough.
"Come here early and play hard and working is what I have to keep doing, and hope tomorrow I have a better day than today," Ruiz said Monday, apparently not satisfied with two extra-base hits and a season-high-tying three RBIs.
"That's what I want. That's what I would like to do every day: swing the bat better and help my team."
David Gurian-Peck is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.