Darin Ruf's transition to left field at triple-A Lehigh Valley might still be a work in progress, but listen to the men paid to evaluate his work for a living, and you'll be astonished by the progress.

"The left-field play has been very good," said Joe Jordan, the Phillies' director of player development. "It's not a concern for me. It's not a concern at all."

That's quite a different take from the one we heard seven weeks ago, when Ruf's quest to make the big-league roster out of spring training ended mostly because playing left field had been such an adventure for the 26-year-old slugger.

Dave Brundage, the first-year manager at Lehigh Valley, was even stronger than Jordan in his praise of Ruf's left-field play.

"He's been great, and he's getting better," the manager said. "He's good enough right now to play left field. He hasn't been out there that long, and for the strides he has made and the adjustments he has made, he looks so much more comfortable."

Ruf was predictably happy to hear the glowing scouting reports from Jordan and Brundage, mostly because he has put in the time and effort to get better.

"For the most part I feel like I've gotten to the balls I'm supposed to, made the plays I'm supposed to, and thrown the ball to the right base," Ruf said before a game last week at Coca-Cola Park. "I think that's a credit to preparing before the situation actually happens.

"That's one of the things that I kind of tried to focus on early on this year. I've tried to take into account the situation: Who's on base? Who's hitting? I run through the situations in my head before they happen, so that way I can make the correct decision when it does."

Entering the weekend, Ruf had made one error in 42 chances and 22 games out in left field. He had also played eight errorless games at first base.

Jordan talked more about Ruf's hitting than his defense.

"What we have to do is get his bat going, but that's starting to happen," Jordan said. "You know they're pitching him very tough. Every at-bat they are pitching him like a guy who can hurt them. He's going to have to take the fastball away, the slider away, and he's just going to have to drive some balls to the right side and let them think about attacking the other side of the plate."

Ruf hit .205 with one home run through the IronPigs' first 22 games, but he entered Saturday hitting .391 with four home runs and 13 RBIs in his last 12 games. He started heating up with a 4-for-5 game that included two home runs at Louisville late last month.

"It seemed like early in the year I was getting a lot of hits late in the game - one hit here and there and kind of holding on, and then I struggled a little bit over the next couple weeks. But once I got to Louisville I don't know what happened," he said. "I started seeing the ball a little better and driving the ball a little bit more."

Seven weeks after being sent back to the minors, Ruf looks at his first big-league spring training as a great experience even though it didn't have the ending he would have written.

"It was a good experience," he said. "I think I thought I was maybe further along in left field coming off winter ball. But I needed to work that much more. I think I'm a pretty humble and low-key guy, but you really can't take anything for granted.

"Coming into spring training I think a lot of people expected me to win that left-field job after playing it only for a month, and I think I bought into it a little bit too much. I obviously wanted to do that. It would have been the ultimate goal, but it just doesn't happen that much where you're thrust into a new position and you play it flawlessly."