By Matt Leon
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Perhaps the best story to unfold from what, to this point, has been a disappointing Phillies season has been the emergence of catcher Erik Kratz.
Born in Telford, Pa. and a product of Christopher Dock High School in Lansdale, Kratz had toiled in the minors for ten seasons, prior to 2012, getting brief shots at the bigs in 2010 (Pittsburgh) and last season (with the Phils). For most of the this season, Kratz became quite familiar with the Northeast Extension, as he shuttled back and forth between the Phillies and AAA Lehigh Valley several times. That was until Carlos Ruiz went on the disabled list in early August. It was then that the 32-year-old Kratz finally got a chance to play everyday in the big leagues, and safe to say he has taken full advantage.
“It’s a blast,” Kratz recently told KYW Newsradio. “Getting an opportunity to go out there every day and try and get into a groove and helping the team win. It’s awesome.”
Kratz is hitting .287 for the Phillies this season with eight home runs and 21 RBI in 101 at bats. If you watch the games, you feel like almost all of those home runs and RBI have come in critical situations. Kratz has also been very good behind the plate. He has thrown out 13 of the 26 runners that have tried to steal on him. Making that number even more impressive is the fact that he has gunned out several of those runners with great throws he has made from his knees.
“I’ve done that for awhile,” Kratz says. “I’ve done that in the minor leagues. Normally, I’d say it’s half and half (sometimes) I’m going to consciously do it because of the situation, thinking its going to be a lower pitch. Sometimes, it’s reactive. Really just depends on the situation.”
Listen to Matt Leon’s interview with Erik Kratz:
Kratz has logged more than 2500 minor league at bats since being drafted by the Blue Jays in the 29th round back in 2002. That’s a lot of long bus rides and a lot of games in towns like Medicine Hat and Dunedin. But he’s in the bigs now and keeping everything in perspective.
“For sure that’s worth it. But I always said before that it was worth it, even if I didn’t make it because of all the work I put in. Because I knew, in my heart, that I gave everything I had. At the end of the day, if it wasn’t enough, if it wasn’t meant to be than it wasn’t meant to be. But I enjoyed my run down there, working hard, trying to get out there every day to improve and everything. Now obviously, that I’ve made it . . it’s definitely worth it.”
Kratz would seem to have done everything possible to cement a job as the Phillies back-up catcher in 2013, but he says he isn’t worried about what could happen next year, or even next week.
“As far as looking at the future, you can’t look at the future. You can’t look past the next game, you can’t look past the next opponent and say, ‘Oh, we’re going to play this team soon and can’t wait to go see that stadium’. You gotta to take everything, today. Everything that is available in front of you and try to get the most out of it. That’s what I do. And that’s how I’m going to continue to handle myself and hopefully it leads to more success.”
Kratz and the Phillies are in Cincinnati again tonight to take on the Reds.
You can follow Matt on Twitter @mattleonkyw.