ATLANTA - Phillies team president David Montgomery made his way through the visiting clubhouse at Turner Field yesterday morning, sending well wishes to his players.
He stopped and chatted with veteran catcher Carlos Ruiz for several minutes. He shook hands with Ruiz twice.
It's likely neither man wanted to say goodbye.
Ruiz was not in the starting lineup for yesterday's season finale against the Braves while nursing a sore left hand. For the second straight day, he was held out of action completely.
As he sat at his locker stall yesterday morning, Ruiz, who can file for free agency after the World Series, couldn't help but think if it was the last day he'd change into that uniform.
"If I say no, I'd be lying to you," Ruiz said. "Yesterday I don't think I was sleeping [well] because, like you said [it could be it]. But we'll see.''
Like Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins and Cole Hamels, Ruiz has been a big part of a core that have 2008 World Series rings and have never worn anything other than a Phillies uniform.
Of course, there's a decent chance Ruiz will be back in a Phillies uniform in 2014. A deal could even go down within the next month, before Ruiz files for free agency.
The Phils do not have an in-house replacement at catcher, the free-agent market behind Atlanta's Brian McCann is very thin, and the righthanded-hitting Ruiz fits well into the lefthanded-heavy Phillies lineup.
Since missing most of the season's first 2 1/2 months while serving a suspension and sitting on the disabled list with a hamstring injury, Ruiz hit .274 in his final 76 games. Both manager Ryne Sandberg and general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. recently have spoken in favor of bringing Ruiz back for 2014.
"When you hear that, you know you still have a chance, an opportunity to come back," Ruiz said. "That's good."
Amaro won't comment whether he's had discussions with Marc Kligman, Ruiz' agent. Ruiz said he plans to go home to Panama next weekend and let Kligman and Amaro do their respective jobs.
"Right now I know we're open to talk," Ruiz said. "But I don't know. Right now I'm planning to go back home with my family. I'll let my agent work and see what they got for me."
Ruiz, who turns 35 in January, hit .268 in 92 games this season. In the span of his current contract, which paid him $13.35 million over four seasons, Ruiz hit .295 with a .374 OBP and .810 OPS in 459 games.
"I would like to stay here and finish my career here," Ruiz said. "But at the same time, this is the big leagues. I hope I can finish here, but if I have to go somewhere else. . . . I'd definitely like to stay and wear one uniform. Like I've always said, it's not in my hands."
While Ruiz and Roy Halladay highlight the free agents the Phils will deal with this winter, the team also has 10 players eligible for salary arbitration: Kevin Frandsen, Ben Revere, John Mayberry Jr., Roger Bernadina, Casper Wells, Pete Orr and pitchers Kyle Kendrick, John Lannan, Antonio Bastardo and Zach Miner.
The Phillies could very well nontender at least half of those names, making them free agents. Kendrick will not be one of them.
Amaro said Saturday that the team would tender a contract to Kendrick, who has struggled mightily in the second half of the season. After going 6-4 with a 3.22 ERA in his first 13 starts, Kendrick was 4-9 with a 6.04 ERA in 17 starts before his season ended with right shoulder tendinitis in late September.
But with a lack of rotation depth in the major leagues and upper levels of the minor leagues - it was basically on display on the season's last road trip - Amaro feels bringing Kendrick back is important. Ditto manager Ryne Sandberg.
"Three out of the [last] four games turned into bullpen days," the manager said following yesterday's 12-5 loss. "That's a tough go. That stresses the importance in more pitching depth and stabilizing and making decisions on the staff for next year."
But Kendrick, who finished out a 2-year, $7.5 million contract, still isn't 100 comfortable in his place on the roster.
"I guess, I wasn't really worried about it," Kendrick said of hearing the Phils would tender him a contract. "I guess it's nice . . . You could always get traded, though."
Asche suffers gash
Cody Asche's first major league season ended a few innings earlier than he would have liked.
Asche was hit below the chin with a ball thrown from Domonic Brown in leftfield in the game's first inning yesterday. The rookie third baseman left the game and needed seven stitches.
"It was ugly," manager Ryne Sandberg said of the gash. "It was wide open."
Asche, whose demeanor brings to mind Phillies teammate, Chase Utley, was almost proud of the battle scar.
"I have a nice scar to remind me of my first, last game [of a season] in the big leagues,' Asche said with a smile.
The 23-year-old Asche will very likely head into spring training with the starting third-base job as his to lose, even though he struggled in the seasons' final weeks. Asche hit .148 since Sept. 7 and went just 1-for-21 in his last nine games.
"It definitely wasn't an ideal way to go into the offseason," he said, "but baseball will do that to you."
"I just think he ran out of gas a little bit on the mental side," Sandberg said of Asche, who played in 154 games, including 50 in the majors, this season, 24 more than in 2012.