The last time Carlos Ruiz looked so thrilled at Citizens Bank Park was when he raced toward Brad Lidge after he struck out Erik Hinske on a cold October night in 2008 when the Phillies won their second World Series title in 125 years.
Ruiz was all smiles again on a chilly November evening as he met the press confirming a three-year, $26 million contract.
“I’m very happy to be back,” Ruiz said.
There was some uncertainty whether Ruiz would return since he opted to test free agency. Much like his longtime teammate Jimmy Rollins after the 2011 season, Ruiz expressed his desire to stay with the only team he’s ever known.
“I hope to come back,” Ruiz said in September. “I love it here.”
Ruiz wisely tested the market and found a number of interested teams, who were more than willing to spend some bucks and years on an aging Ruiz, since there are few quality catchers on the market.
Ruiz, 35, fielded offers from the Boston Red Sox and Colorado Rockies. But he gave the Phillies the right of first refusal. General manager Ruben Amaro Jr. was more than happy to keep Ruiz, who the pitching staff knows and loves, back in the fold.
“This is a commitment that will be scrutinized,” Amaro said. “But I know that Chooch knows what it takes to bring a championship to this city.”
Can a team which won just 73 games, it’s lowest total since 2000, with an aging core of oft-injured players, such as Ryan Howard and Chase Utley, compete for a title?
“I think we can win,” Amaro said. “What we’re about is getting the right people and pieces. We have faith that Howard and [Ben] Revere [who broke his foot in July] are going to come back and be effective.”
That remains to be seen. If the Phillies are going to challenge the Braves and Nationals for the NL East crown, it appears they need more firepower than they presently possess. Amaro claims another bat could be added.
“It is possible,” Amaro said. “We’ve had a lot of dialogue with a lot of clubs. We’ve kept our minds and eyes open as far as our lineup is concerned.”
If the Phillies don’t add additional offense, much will be expected of new addition Marlon Byrd, who is 36, Utley, 35, and Howard, 34.
“I think [Yankees general manager] Brian Cashman said, ‘I don’t care about age as long as they’re good,’” Amaro said.
The Yankees’ core in 2009, when they beat the Phillies for the World Series title, was about the same collective age as the current Philadelphia squad. However, history indicates the Yankees team of 2009 was the anomaly.
Ruiz played well against the Yankees in that series and hopes to pick it up next season.
“Last year was a rough year but that ‘s over and I’m back working hard like always to come back next year and do better.”