Ruiz Hurt In WBC; Is Marson Ready?

Carlos Ruiz made the decision to play for Panama in the WBC and might be regretting it now. Ruiz left a game against Puerto Rico on Saturday after suffering what appears to be a pinched nerve in his neck. If the injury turns out to be serious, would Lou Marson be ready to take over behind the plate?

Panama manager Hector Lopez speculated that Phillies catcher Carlos Ruiz suffered a pinched nerve in his neck during Saturday's game between Panama and Puerto Rico. Lopez said that Ruiz will be examined on Sunday and wasn't able to offer a guess at how long Ruiz might be sidelined by the injury.

If Ruiz is going to miss part of the regular season, what would be the Phillies options behind the plate?

Ronny Paulino, who the Phillies acquired from Pittsburgh during the off-season, could be considered the front-runner. He came into camp having slimmed down and seemed recommitted to his career, which had been on a downturn after he lost his starting job to Ryan Doumit with the Pirates. So far this spring, Paulino is hitting .182 in five games.

Of course, all eyes turn toward catching prospect Lou Marson, one of the top overall prospects in the Phillies organization.

Marson figures to start the season at Triple-A Lehigh Valley after playing last season at the Double-A level, where he hit a career-high .314 with the R-Phils. Will that plan change if Ruiz is going to miss substantial time?

This spring, Marson has gone 0-for-9 in six games with the Phillies, but that hasn't dampened his prospect status. There is no doubt about Marson's ability or his potential to play in the majors, but the Phillies figure to be cautious about rushing their young catching prospect.

While Marson launched his first major league home run in his debut with the Phillies last September, the truth is that time with the IronPigs this season would likely better prepare Marson for playing in the majors on a regular basis. With the presence of Paulino and Chris Coste at the big league level there isn't a need to push Marson along at this point.

One thing that could factor into the decision is the extent of Ruiz' injury. If he's going to miss substantial time, the Phillies would have to decide if Marson is truly ready to be an everyday catcher. They could also consider mixing him in as a part-time catcher, splitting time with Paulino behind the plate. The rotation of the two catchers could work well to slowly acclimate Marson to the majors while not exposing him to having to play everyday. Under that scenario, manager Charlie Manuel could pick and choose when Marson plays and keep him out of the lineup against some of the tougher pitchers in the league. One downside of that plan is that many pitchers would prefer to have one catcher catching most of their games so they can get into a rhythm with that particular catcher. If that's an issue, Manuel could match-up Marson with two or three particular starters and have Paulino handle the other starters.

Ideally, Marson should log some time at the Triple-A level. Rest assured that the Phillies will certainly pay even closer attention to Marson for the rest of the spring if the prognosis on Ruiz isn't good. Right now though, it's a matter of keeping their fingers crossed and hoping that Ruiz' injury isn't one that will sideline him for any amount of time or cause lingering issues for him throughout the season.

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