Philadelphia Phillies catcher Carlos Ruiz is eligible to return from his 25-game amphetamine suspension this coming Sunday, so he is starting a rehab assignment at Single-A Clearwater on Tuesday to make sure he is ready to go by the weekend, the team has announced.
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Ruiz, 34, has been playing in extended Spring Training games since at least last week. The veteran backstop had a bit of a scare Friday when he was hit on the left wrist by a pitch, but X-rays came back negative and it doesn't appear to be an issue.
"Chooch" tested positive for a banned amphetamine in November, forcing him to sit for the Phillies' first 25 games this year and to forfeit $770,000 of his $5 million salary. Ruiz is coming off a career-best season in which he hit .325/.394/.540 with 16 home runs in 114 games, so the Phillies are likely very happy to get him back.
Erik Kratz has been Philadelphia's primary backstop in Ruiz's absence. The journeyman has done a pretty well behind the plate but has been miserable in the batter's box, hitting just .203/.213/.339 in 61 plate appearances.
Ruiz will be a free agent at the season's end and could command a nice deal if he is able to repeat his 2012 success.