E-Rupp-tion: Catcher making noise with bat

Slugging backstop could hit way into Phillies' future plans

July 3rd, 2016

PHILADELPHIA -- Cameron Rupp moseyed to his locker late Sunday afternoon at Citizens Bank Park, donned a black cowboy hat and smiled.

The get-up suited him.

"I have a few at home," the native Texan said. "Can't you tell I wear them? It looks good on me."

Rupp is looking pretty good in the Phillies' lineup, too. He hit a three-run home run in the first inning in Sunday's 7-2 victory over the Royals, launching a 98-mph fastball up and out of the zone from Royals right-hander Yordano Ventura to right field. The homer helped the Phillies win the three-game series against the defending World Series champions.

"I just threw the bat on it, and he provided the power with a 98-mile-per-hour fastball," Rupp said.

Rupp is hitting .288 with 16 doubles, one triple, eight home runs, 22 RBIs and an .831 OPS in 201 plate appearances. His numbers put him among the best catchers in baseball. He entered the afternoon ranked third among big league catchers in doubles; third in OPS and slugging percentage; fifth in batting average; 10th in hits and tied for 11th in home runs.

He posted those numbers, despite ranking 17th among catchers in plate appearances.

"I'm tempted to play him a lot more," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. "That ball he hit to right field was about neck-high, which was nice. He's been concentrating on not missing fastballs up in the zone, which are home run pitches for him, by trying to stay on top of those pitches. It certainly looked like he did that today."

Rupp's season is becoming a compelling one. He entered Spring Training expected to share time with Carlos Ruiz, who purchased the black cowboys hats for the entire team. (They plan to wear them to Colorado on Wednesday.) But Rupp also entered camp knowing the Phillies had two of the better catching prospects in baseball in Jorge Alfaro and Andrew Knapp, and pretty much everybody expected one of them -- not Rupp -- to be the organization's catcher of the future.

But that is hardly fait accompli. Phillies fans probably forget, but they screamed for former Phillies general manager Pat Gillick to replace Ruiz with top catching prospect Lou Marson in 2008, when Ruiz posted a forgettable .620 OPS.

The Phillies hung with Ruiz, who established himself as one of the better catchers in franchise history. The Phillies traded Marson to Cleveland in July 2009 as part of the Cliff Lee trade. Marson hasn't been in the Majors since 2013, never establishing himself as an everyday catcher.

"I'm still trying to establish myself in the big leagues," Rupp said. "Whatever I need to do, that's what I'm trying to do. I want to makes sure people know that I want to belong here. I don't want to be somebody that is a place filler.

"At any point in my career, somebody is going to want my job, not just those two. If I end up playing for seven or eight more years, there's going to be somebody else trying to get my job. I take it as, I've got to be me. I've got to play. It doesn't matter how good I've performed. There is motivation, but it's not just because of those two that are down there. They're good ballplayers. Who wouldn't want them on your ball club? But I think at any point it doesn't matter who's down there. I'm still playing for my job every day."