PHILADELPHIA — Charlie Manuel has been forced to answer a myriad of questions about trips to the disabled list made by his players this year.
The winningest manager in Phillies history is never without a disappointed look when he's explaining the injury or talking about how long a player will be out.
On Saturday, though, Manuel's eyes were filled with more sympathy than usual when he had to confront the fact that catcher Carlos Ruiz would be on the disabled list for four to six weeks with a partial tear in his left foot caused by plantar fasciitis.
Not only does Manuel know the pain of the condition all too well — he has plantar fasciitis in both feet —but he knows the injury puts a damper on what has been the best season of Ruiz's career, one during which he's led the majors in hitting and made his firstAll-Star Game.
"Losing him is tough," Manuel said. "Chooch is a big part of our lineup. Just goes to show you how you can improve and what hard work can do for you. He went from being an eight-hole hitter to a [cleanup hitter]. He's having a tremendous year, not only with the bat but also catching and playing the game and calling the game."
Ruiz, who became the 17th Phillie to land on the DL this season, said he started feeling discomfort during the Phillies series in Los Angeles from July 16-18. At that point, the problem wasn't full blown and he figured a day off here and there would be enough. But it got a little worse almost every day.
"I tried to stay in the lineup because that's the way I want to play," he said.
So Erik Kratz spelled Ruiz more than usual with the hope he and the trainers could keep the pain at a manageable level.
"I'd have good days," Ruiz said. "Like in Atlanta, last Sunday, it was feeling great and I was happy. There was less pain than before."
But then the bad days started to outnumber the good days, and last week in Washington D.C., things took a turn for the worst after he doubled in Tuesday's 8-0 win.
"It got me real good," he said. "I knew it had to be something because there's no way it could feel that good and then the next day feel real bad."
Ruiz got the day off Wednesday before playing all nine innings in Thursday's series finale. He went 0-for-4 that day, and it summed up what was a rough few weeks at the plate for Ruiz. From July 17 to Aug. 2, Ruiz was only 9-for-41 (.220 BA) with no home runs and four doubles. His season batting average dropped from .353 to .335.
For now, all Ruiz, who is wearing a boot on his left foot, can do are the exercises given to him by the medical staff. He will be re-evaluated in two weeks, at which point he's hoping he can begin some baseball activities.
The trip to the disabled list, which is backdated to Aug. 3, had Ruiz thinking about what could have been. He was hitting .381 on June 1, and as recently as June 27, was batting .364.
"I feel real sad because I was thinking this is going to be for a day here or there," he said. "I want to be a part of the lineup every day. I know this is one of the best seasons I've ever had. But that's life. That's baseball. I was real sad last night when I called my family because I never expected it would be that long. But it happened. I just have to keep working."
Manuel is still living with the condition, which according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, happens when the thick tissue on the bottom of the foot that connects the heel bone to the toes, gets inflamed. That inflammation is a result of the foot being overstretched or overused.
"If I go play 18 holes of golf, I can hardly walk," Manuel said. "It hurts."
Nothing about this injury has been easy. Although backup catcher Brian Schneider is back after having missed five weeks with a high right ankle sprain, he's not quite 100 percent yet. His ankle still needs to be taped on a daily basis and playing every day isn't an option yet. He started Friday's game, but Kratz got the call Saturday.
"It's good to be back," said the Northampton graduate, who was activated Tuesday. "It's always good to be back. You don't want to come back and see Chooch get hurt like that, though. It's hard because he was having such a good year. That's part of the game. Part of the game is getting hurt and playing through injuries. He played through it as long as he could."
And now the Phillies are being forced to see what life will be like without their best hitter.