Let’s break up the monotony of off-season transactions and rumors with a feel-good story. Catcher Carlos Ruiz, who recently re-upped with the Phillies, surprised six-year-old cancer patient Aiden Riebel with a visit.
Via Paul Casella on MLB.com:
With the Saint Florian medal dangling around his neck, Aiden and his 10-year-old brother, Max, were then each given a Carlos Ruiz jersey and a baseball autographed by the Phillies catcher. Moments later, Ruiz himself — to the surprise of nearly everyone in the auditorium — emerged from a door at the back of the stage and proceeded to engage Aiden in a teary-eyed 45-second embrace.
“Sometimes things happen for some reason, but this is special that God put us all together right here,” said an emotional Ruiz. “Thanks to all the firefighters that came out and everybody else that is here and thank you for letting me be part of this.”
Aside from his skills on the baseball field, one reason the Phillies were so eager to bring Ruiz back was his community involvement. Ruiz started “Chooch’s Chicos,” designed to invite children from local Latino groups to attend Phillies games. He has also supported Philadelphia Futures, which works with lower-income students who want to attend college.
CSN Philly’s Jim Salisbury reports that Phillies outfielder Nick Williams has been working out daily with free agent starter Jake Arrieta in Austin. The right-hander, who won the 2015 National League Cy Young Award, still remains teamless with spring training less than a month away. Williams has been trying to sell Arrieta on joining the Phillies.
Williams said of Arrieta, “He loves it here [Austin]. He has told me he likes working with young guys. I’m like, ‘All right, come on up.’ But I’m not writing the check. I don’t know what he wants. I don’t really dig into that because I’m not really in his position.”
On GM Matt Klentak’s hunt for pitching help, new manager Gabe Kapler said, “The pursuit is very real. I have a lot of trust that we’ll either go in [to spring training] with a new toy or we will pass on the opportunity because we’re better off giving this collection of pitchers a really healthy look because we thought that we could go acquire that piece a little bit later on this season or in the offseason next year.”
Arrieta, who turns 32 years old in March, went 14-10 with a 3.53 ERA and a 163/55 K/BB ratio in 168 1/3 innings last season with the Cubs. The Cubs, Cardinals, and Brewers have been linked to Arrieta this month.
Presently, the Phillies’ starting rotation figures to include Aaron Nola, Jerad Eickhoff, and Vince Velasquez along with some combination of Nick Pivetta, Ben Lively, Zach Eflin, Mark Leiter, and Jake Thompson. Arrieta would certainly amount to a big upgrade in the starting rotation and could make the Phillies a more attractive landing spot for Bryce Harper or Manny Machado, who become free agents after the 2018 campaign. The Phillies are expected to be in the mix for either or both players.