Earlier today, Bill Baer pointed out the hard truth that Darin Ruf doesn’t fit on the Phillies roster. It’s a particularly frustrating roster crunch given that the Phillies will begin the season with three games in Texas using the designated hitter rule and, therefore, have extra incentive to find a way to squeeze Ruf, arguably their best offensive bench piece, onto the roster. As Baer noted, the players Ruf’s skill set could most naturally replace, Kevin Frandsen and John Mayberry, Jr., are presently immovable due to guaranteed contracts, lack of minor league options, and defensive considerations. Fortunately, the Phillies have a temporary scheduling quirk they could exploit.
Darin Ruf has been one of the few Phillies who has hit with any consistency this spring. In 25 at-bats, he has a .280/.400/.520 line which includes two home runs and four walks. MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki notes that Ruf has been impressing manager Ryne Sandberg, which might help his cause when the 25-man roster is finalized at the end of spring training.
The Phillies are set at every position except for the #5 spot in the starting rotation, making it the only interesting battle going on in spring training. After his latest setback, Cole Hamels is unlikely to make his 2014 debut in April. As a result, the Phillies have pushed everyone up in the rotation. Kyle Kendrick is now a #3 and Roberto Hernandez is now a #4, not exactly the plan they had when spring training began in mid-February.
Over the next two weeks, the Phillies will be putting their fifth starter candidates to the test to see who is capable of treading water until Hamels is ready to return. Just who are these mysterious candidates?