Carlos Ruiz: From lovable backstop to Phillies’ centerpiece

There was a time when Carlos Ruiz was all glove. During the championship season in 2008, Chooch was nothing special at the plate with a .219 average. However, he was exceptional behind the plate calling games and blocking closer Brad Lidge’s explosive slider.

“The reason I could throw that pitch was because of Chooch,” Lidge said. “Not every catcher can deal with that. But it’s not just defense with Chooch, he has developed into a serious hitter.”

Ruiz first emerged as an offensive force in 2009.

“He [Ruiz] came up with some clutch hits,” Yankee manager Joe Girardi said during spring training when reflecting on the 2009 World Series. “I don’t like to see him come up to the plate.”

Ruiz worked hard on the offensive side of his game and he posted solid numbers in recent seasons. Ruiz hit .302 in 2010 and posted a .371 OBP in 2011.

“I take pride in hitting,” Ruiz said. “It’s not all about defense. You have to try your best at all sides of the game. I don’t want to be one type of player. I want to help with the bat.”

With the Phillies missing the meat of their order this season, they needed a regular to step up and that’s been Ruiz. He’s hitting .354 (third in the NL) with nine home runs and 39 RBIs and leads the power-starved team in slugging (.561) and OPS (.983).

“We need to be as productive as possible,” Ruiz said. “So every time I bat, I try to do something. It’s not easy without those guys [Chase Utley, Ryan Howard]. Someone has to do something while they’re out. We’re all trying. I’m just trying to do what I can.”

Ruiz has played well enough to earn a slot in his first All-Star game. However, he sits third in the voting behind Buster Posey and Yadier Molina. Barring a strong finish from Phillies fans, Ruiz will have to settle for a reserve spot.

“I think he deserves plenty of consideration for the All-Star game,” Pirates pitcher Jeff Karstens said. “It’s not just for what he’s doing this season, but what he’s done for years. He’s developed into a phenomenal player.”

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