Darin Ruf, minor league baseball's home run champion this season, joined the Philadelphia Phillies on Monday.
Phillies manager Charlie Manuel will spend the next three weeks trying to determine if and where Ruf fits in the team's long-term plan.
Ruf, 26, hit 38 home runs for Double-A Reading this season, breaking the franchise record of 37 set by Ryan Howard in 2004. Ruf's total barely eclipsed the 2012 output for Kansas City Royals prospect Wil Myers, who hit 37 homers between Double-A and Triple-A ball.
Ruf was admittedly down emotionally after making the final out in Reading's Eastern League playoffs series against Trenton on Sunday, but his spirits were lifted when he received word that he had been summoned by the Phillies. He arrived at Citizens Bank Park at 12:30 p.m. Monday and had a meeting with Manuel.
"He had a little smile on his face when I walked in," Ruf told reporters. "But I think mine was a little bigger than his."
Ruf, a right-handed hitter and first baseman by trade, has come a long way in a short time.
The Phillies selected him out of Creighton University in the 20th round of the 2009 draft, and Ruf hit 12 homers in 659 at-bats during his first two professional seasons. His path to the majors got a little clearer in July 2011 when the Phillies sent first base prospect Jonathan Singleton to Houston in a deal for Hunter Pence, and Ruf responded with 17 homers for Single-A Clearwater.
The Phillies couldn't help but notice Ruf in August, when he hit 20 homers in 116 at-bats and posted a .931 slugging percentage to earn a promotion.
"I wish I could describe it," Ruf said. "I was kind of in the zone. It's a little weird when you don't hit a home run and people are like, 'What was that? You didn't have a good at-bat.' I definitely soaked it in and had a lot of fun with it. I know my teammates had a lot of fun with it."
Upon Ruf's arrival at Citizens Bank Park, catcher and former Reading teammate Steve Lerud broke out a "Babe Ruf" T-shirt that the Double-A club had been selling in the ballpark gift shop this season.
Since Howard is signed to a five-year, $125 million contract that runs through 2016, the Phillies are hoping that Ruf can make the transition from first base to left field, where he played 29 games this season in Reading. Ruf will get an opportunity to play left field this month in Philadelphia, and will continue to work at the position in winter ball in Venezuela.
A scout at Monday's game between the Phillies and Miami Marlins described Ruf as a "late bloomer" and said he has a chance to stick in the big leagues and be a "serviceable" defender in left field.
Philadelphia's left fielders are tied for 28th in the majors with nine home runs and rank 19th in OPS at .719 this season. Juan Pierre (85 starts) and John Mayberry Jr. (30) have logged the bulk of the at-bats in left for Philadelphia.
Manuel said he considered playing Ruf on Monday night against Marlins left-hander Wade LeBlanc, but wanted to watch Ruf take batting practice and get in some work at first base and the outfield. Manuel also was reluctant to make a change since the Phillies have won 12 of their last 16 games and are trying to make a late run at a wild-card berth.
But Manuel is anxious to take a look at Ruf over the team's final 22 games.
"I'm looking forward to seeing him play and seeing him hit," Manuel said. "There's an old saying, 'If you can hit, we'll find a place for you.' In today's game, that goes a long way. If you can hit and hit with power, it's more than likely we'll find a position where you can play."