Eric Ruth was another Yankees farmhand who enjoyed his time in Trenton in 2015.
Like teammate Billy Fleming, who lives in Churchville, Pa., 20 minutes from Arm&Hammer Park, Ruth, a right-hander, is from Harleysville, Pa., about 40 minutes away. Fleming attended Council Rock High, while Ruth is an alumnus of rival North Penn High.
“It was nice to get to sleep in my own bed for part of this season,” said Ruth, who was 10-6, 3.38 in 26 appearances (25 starts) for Class-A Advanced Tampa, the Double-A Thunder and Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, where he made a single start. “Home is always a nice place to be.”
Chances are, after spring training, Ruth, a 6-foot, 195-pound righty signed as a free-agent in 2013 out of Winthrop University in Rock Hill, S.C., which has an excellent NCAA Division II program, will get a chance to commute to Arm&Hammer Park early in the season. But if he throws the ball the way he ended 2015, he’ll be looking for a residence in Northeastern Pennsylvania.
At Winthrop, he alternated between the bullpen and starting and, as a senior in 2013, was one of the top closers in the Big South Conference with a 3-0, 0.43 ERA and 10 saves as a senior in 2013. The Yankees began transitioning him into a starter in 2014 because he showed he could throw a fastball, slider, curve and changeup for strikes.
The curve and the change were particularly effective in situations last season.
Even though he is not a power pitcher, perhaps hitting 91-92 mph with his fastball on a certain day, his forte is control, which allowed him to get past the Double-A hurdle and compile a 9-5, 3.20 mark in 112.1 innings with the Thunder in 20 appearances (19 starts, finishing a game in the other). He struck out 77 and walked just 39, allowing only 10 homers in 146.1 innings among three levels.
He made a pair of starts for Scranton, with a no-decision and a loss.
“I have confidence with my stuff, and I know I can throw strikes with every pitch,” said Ruth. “I know I’m not the kind of guy who can blow hitters away, so I have to use my other abilities to keep them off-balance and uncomfortable.
“I want to give up as few base hits and runs as possible and always give my team a chance to win.”
Given his Winthrop background as a closer, a case can be made Ruth advanced as far as any pitcher in the Yankees system in 2015. He became much more aggressive and confident as the season went on and became one of the Thunder’s most durable and reliable starters.
He seems to know what he has to do to stay ahead of the hitters.
“Hitters adjust, so I have to adjust,” said Ruth, who turned 25 last September and took a major step in establishing himself in 2015. His is a free agent collegiate reliever who is emerging as a legitimate candidate to be a back-end starter or solid bullpen piece on the big-league level.
His control is excellent, his plan on the mound equally effective. Hitters do not intimidate him and he seems to thrive on mixing up his pitches to outwit them.
“I know I can get anybody out of I put my pitches where I want to,” said Ruth.
He throws strikes and trusts his stuff, which is just what the Yankees are looking for.