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Ruiz activated from DL; Lerud optioned to Triple-A

Catcher out of action since May 20 because of strained right hamstring

PHILADELPHIA -- A little bit ahead of schedule, Carlos Ruiz is back with the Phillies.

Ruiz was activated Tuesday after missing nearly a month with a strained right hamstring. The catcher originally thought he would not be back with the team until the weekend, but he said everything felt good enough for him to be in the lineup against the Nationals for the middle game of the three-game set.

Ruiz injured his leg while running the bases against the Reds on May 19 and had a rehab assignment for Triple-A Lehigh Valley last weekend.

"The two rehab games that I played, I didn't feel anything," Ruiz said. "I was almost running normal, you know. But at the same time, you try to recover and you try not to go crazy. I needed to be 100 percent, and now, I feel good."

As Ruiz rejoins the lineup, his fellow banged-up teammate, Chase Utley, was supposed to begin a rehab stint in Double-A Reading on Tuesday, according to manager Charlie Manuel. However, inclement weather kept the second baseman -- who is nursing a strained right oblique -- in Philadelphia for the day.

Ruiz hit eighth in the Phillies' order in his first game off the disabled list, which was just his 17th appearance of 2013. The 34-year-old did not play for the Phillies until April 28, as he was serving a suspension at the start of the season for using a banned substance.

In his brief time at the Major League level, Ruiz's bat was cold. And though he had an eight-game hitting streak at one point, he was 12-for-51 (.235). Ruiz -- who hit .325 in 114 games last season -- said he was going to take it one at-bat at a time, and try to do what he can when he's behind the plate.

"Sometimes, you get your timing back right away. Maybe you don't have it," Ruiz said. "For me, I go up there and play good defense, call a good game and win the game."

The return of Ruiz gives the Phillies a much-needed boost behind the plate. Erik Kratz, Ruiz's backup, injured his left knee against the Brewers on June 8, so the team has been without its top two options at catcher for the last 10 days. Catcher Steven Lerud was sent back to Triple-A on Tuesday to make room for Ruiz.

Stephen Pianovich is a reporter for

Philadelphia Phillies, Steven Lerud, Carlos Ruiz