Sandberg impressed with Ruf's spring showing

Sandberg impressed with Ruf's spring showing

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Darin Ruf replaced Ryan Howard at first base in the seventh inning Tuesday at Champion Stadium.

Ruf never had an opportunity to hit, but he has nonetheless made his mark early this spring, hitting .280 (7-for-25) with two home runs and six RBIs in 12 Grapefruit League games. He has a .400 on-base percentage and a .520 slugging percentage.

"He's taking advantage of his opportunities," manager Ryne Sandberg said. "Everyone has had a chance to play. No one can say they haven't had a chance to play. When he's been asked to play -- whether it be left field or first base -- he has taken advantage of that. He's put together quality at-bats and has done a good job in the field. Everyone has had the opportunity."

The Phillies are hitting just .186 this spring, so a strong exhibition season from Ruf could put him on the 25-man roster.

"That can put him right in the lineup for me," Sandberg said. "I mean, he's trying to get in the lineup Opening Day. There is something to that. Now, once again, looking at the at-bats and swings for the last 10 days of Spring Training, and he's one of the hot bats? He would be a guy I want in there for me. For a guy who is looking to be on the team and win a job, he's gone about it the right way, starting in the offseason and coming in with a nice approach. He's in shape, game ready. He's looked good."

Ruf is competing for one of potentially three available bench jobs. Catcher Wil Nieves and infielder Freddy Galvis appear to be locks for two spots. Kevin Frandsen has an inside track on a job as a utility infielder, as he has a guaranteed $900,000 contract. John Mayberry Jr. has a guaranteed $1.6 million contract, although the Phillies have been trying to trade the outfielder for some time. Bobby Abreu and Tony Gwynn Jr. are candidates to play in the outfield.

If Abreu makes the team as a corner outfielder, it could affect Ruf, who has options remaining.

Todd Zolecki is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.