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Darin Ruf's latest trip to Lehigh Valley may be a last gasp of an opportunity for the former prospect

It may be time for the Phillies and Darin Ruf to part ways. Ruf was again optioned out to Lehigh Valley on Friday to make room for Tommy Joseph to take over Ruf's role with the big league club. Where do things go from here?

When Darin Ruf was working his way through the Phillies minor league system, there were comparisons to Pat Burrell. Both were strong, young right-handed hitters and both had some holes in their game, but also had a lot of talent. They also had that million-dollar smile and look that the female portion of fans were sure to fall in love with. Now, the comparisons of Ruf are more closely aligned to him being Domonic Brown. The Phillies finally cut Brown loose over the Winter when their expectations for him fell way short of reality.

Both had that one big Summer that players dream of. For Ruf, it was the Summer of 2012 when the then 25-year old hit a franchise record 38 home runs at Double-A Reading, earning him a September call-up with the Phillies, where he added three more home runs in just 33 at-bats. Brown's Summer to remember came in 2013 when he was a 25-year old major leaguer with the club. Brown hit 23 home runs in the first-half of the season and was picked for a spot on the National League All-Star Team. Unfortunately, he wound up hitting just four more home runs the rest of the way and never did rediscover that home run swing from early in 2013.

Now, the Phillies have optioned Ruf to Lehigh Valley, meaning that if he's still with the organization next Spring, the you know what will likely hit the fan, since he'll be out of options and the Phillies would have to decide if they want to hang onto him. Odds are though that they won't have to face that decision, because it's likely that something happens well before then.

For Brown - who by the way, is hitting 5-17-.230/.298/.389 at Triple-A Buffalo - the end came last October when he was outrighted to Lehigh Valley and elected to become a free agent. He would later - much later - sign a minor league deal with the Toronto Blue Jays, who have him playing at Buffalo. It's possible that Ruf's end could come in much the same way, but again, it could come earlier than that.

It wouldn't be surprising to see one of the following scenarios play out sometime this Summer:

One. The Phillies could include Ruf as a throw-in in a a deal with another team. Not that he's going to tip the scales on any deal, but there may be a team that figures they can take a chance on him and maybe catch lightning in a bottle with a change of scenery and some new people to work with Ruf.

Two. Rhys Hoskins catches fire and the Phillies decide they want to move him to Lehigh Valley and need a roster spot. At this point, Hoskins is hitting just 6-21-.238/.299/.426, but the Phillies like him and if he does start swinging the bat better, he could potentially make a jump to Lehigh Valley. Hoskins is also a first baseman, where Ruf figures to see the main amount of time with the IronPigs.

Three. Ruf just continues to struggle and the Phillies don't see any value in keeping him around, so they just release him.

Any of those scenarios could happen. It's also possible that Ruf finds a magic elixir and starts to really pound the ball just as the Phillies had always hoped he would do. 

We'll have to wait to see how it all plays out, but you have to figure that it's likely that we may have seen the last of Darin Ruf in Philadelphia. He's simply had his chances and the Phillies appear ready to move on from the likes of Brown, Ruf, et al.

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