SAN FRANCISCO — Between hugs and hellos and how are you, Darin Ruf arrived at his locker in the Giants clubhouse on Wednesday afternoon. Almost a year to date since he was on the road in their season-opening victory in 2022, around seven months since he was surprisingly sent on the road to New York, and two weeks since his brief tenure there ended unceremoniously, Ruf was back where he wanted to be all along, with the San Francisco Giants.
“The hugs I was able to give today,” Ruf said, “were way better than the hugs I was able to return in August. It was great to see everyone.
Designated for assignment by the Mets after spring training, Ruf had to wait a week as he was not claimed through the waiver process. He didn’t initially see a reunion with the Giants in the cards, but a series of left-handed throws and injuries to right-handed outfielders Mitch Haniger and Austin Slater opened a door. The Giants wasted no time getting Ruf into the lineup, beating fifth Wednesday night as the designated hitter against Clayton Kershaw in the rubber game of their three-game series with the Dodgers.
Ruf appeared in 11 spring training games with the Mets, hitting .167/.265/.233 in 30 at bats. He was limited by arthritis in his wrist but received a cortisone injection which he says helped the problem that had been bothering him for some years. Since signing a minor league deal with the Giants on Saturday, Ruf said he had about 10 at-bats in extended spring training games in Arizona, which manager Gabe Kapler said was ” really quality home plate appearances”.
“As we all know, good plate appearances in extended spring training are not the same as facing Clayton Kershaw in a major league game,” Kapler said. “Where he is mentally is more important than whether or not he strikes immediately. He’s just in better mental space. I’m happy for him and his family.”
After signing a two-year contract extension before last season, the transfer to New York last August took Ruf by surprise. It also came at a difficult time in his personal life, just months before the unexpected death of his father, which sidelined him from the Giants for nearly a week in May.
In 28 games with the Mets, Ruf batted .152/.216/.197 and became the frequent scorn of passionate New York fans.
“I look back on my time there and wish I could have played better, but baseball is tough and you go through ups and downs,” Ruf said. “Obviously, I didn’t play as well as I wanted. It was an enriching experience.”
Mets general manager Billy Eppler said the delay deal “was a trade that didn’t work out, plain and simple.” You don’t have to look far to find evidence of the Giants stunt: The booth adjacent to Ruf’s belongs to JD Davis, one of four players acquired for Ruf. Davis, who hit the cleanup directly past Ruf on Wednesday, has hit .274/.358/.506 (a .864 OPS) since joining the Giants. And remember, because Ruf suffered unclaimed waivers, the Giants are only liable for the major league prorated minimum of the contract they gave him before last season.
It only took four days from the time he signed with the Giants for them to select him from their roster and insert him into their roster, a speed that even Ruf said was faster than he was. imagined it. But after Kershaw on Wednesday, the Giants have two more southpaws set to start against them in Detroit and potentially two more in Miami, which also includes a heavy southpaw bullpen.
Ruf is expected to serve as the designated hitter for the Giants right-handers, at least until Haniger and Slater are ready to return, although that’s not expected until after the next road trip ends. .
The Giants believe a return to an organization where he feels comfortable and where his renewed sanity can help him return to the form that made him one of the majors’ most dangerous hitters against pitchers. lefties. From 2020-2021, Ruf batted .275/.390/.579 against lefties, a .969 OPS that ranked 24th in the majors.
After speaking with Ruf, Kapler noted “how difficult this sport is when there’s a lot going on in your life. How mentally taxing it can be, how big a deal moving house is for major league players, how big a deal playing in a new city away from your family is, and how devastating it can be.
“You’re not mentally strong all the time. I think Darin was a little compromised in New York for a number of different reasons. I’m glad he’s back and stronger than he was back then.
In a corresponding move, the Giants offered right-hander Sean Hjelle to Triple-A Sacramento. However, Kapler stressed the move was not an indictment of the 26-year-old, who struggled in his first three outings after impressing in spring training.
“The fact that we’ve gone with Sean is not a sign that we don’t think he’s a very good pitcher in the major leagues. We become more and more comfortable with this concept each time it takes to the mound,” Kapler said. “Unfortunately for young players who have options, that comes at the expense of short-term opportunities. But in the long term, we’re quite confident that Sean is going to have an impact on our staff.
The Giants plan to keep Hjelle lying in Triple-A Sacramento. He pitched multiple innings in his three relief appearances, allowing nine runs (six earned) while walking four and striking out 10.