Well, that didn’t take long. Just a few days after signing him to a Minor League contract, and before he’d even suited up for AAA Sacramento, the San Francisco Giants selected the contract of outfielder/first baseman/designated hitter Darin Ruf, adding him to both the 40-man and active rosters.
To make room on the active roster for Ruf, right-handed pitcher Sean Hjelle was optioned to Sacramento. The team did not have to make a move on the 40-man roster, as there was already an open space after they designated Austin Wynns for assignment over the weekend.
#SFGiants roster moves:— SFGiants (@SFGiants) April 12, 2023
• IF/OF Darin Ruf selected to the Major League roster.
• RHP Sean Hjelle optioned to Triple-A Sacramento.
While signing Ruf to a Minor League deal in the first place signaled that the Giants still believed Ruf could return to the slugging ways that were on display in 2020 and 2021, it wasn’t clear if the team thought he could return to those ways immediately. But this move suggests that they do.
Facing a lefty ace in Clayton Kershaw — who Ruf is just 2-19 against in his career — Ruf not only returns to the roster but slots straight into the lineup as the DH. He’ll hit fifth, one spot behind the person the Giants traded him for, J.D. Davis. The move helps the matchup-heavy Giants go more right-handed, though not as right-handed as they could have gone ... lefties Mike Yastrzemski and Michael Conforto will start in center field and left field, respectively, while switch-hitter Bryce Johnson will come off the bench.
Ruf obliterated left-handed hitters in his first two years with the Giants, slashing .259/.339/.552 against southpaws in 2020, and .283/.414/.593 in 2021. But he fell on hard times in 2022, hitting just .222/.322/.430 for the Giants and New York Mets against lefties (his performance against righties, which had been comfortably above average in 2020 and 2021, fell to unplayable levels in 2022, also).
He had a rough (no pun intended) Spring Training, and the Mets designated him for assignment before the season began.
If Ruf looks like his 2020 and 2021 self, that would be a massive addition to a roster that is still a ways away from seeing the returns of Mitch Haniger and Austin Slater. In those two years, Ruf posted the 14th-highest wRC+ in all of baseball (minimum: 400 plate appearances), and one need only look at the names above him to show how meaningful that is: Juan Soto, Bryce Harper, Brandon Belt (!!!), Ronald Acuña Jr., Fernando Tatis Jr., Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Freddie Freeman, Aaron Judge, Corey Seager, Trea Turner, José Ramírez, Jesse Winker, and Yasmani Grandal.
Ruf seemed to love his time in San Francisco, and was openly sad about being traded. He sounds very happy to be back.
Darin Ruf said he got about 10 at-bats in extended spring training games, Gabe Kapler had told him the other day to be ready for this string of lefties. Ruf: “The hugs I got to give today were a lot better than the hugs I got to give in August.”— Alex Pavlovic (@PavlovicNBCS) April 12, 2023
Hjelle, who had an outstanding spring, struggled in his first stint of the year. In six innings he gave up eight hits, four walks, nine runs, and six earned runs, though he did strike out 10 batters. He’ll be back.