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By Matt Leon

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – The Phillies continue to hang around in the National League playoff race, and they are doing so with a a lot of unlikely faces playing important roles down the stretch.  Few people back in April would have expected players like Kevin Frandsen, Erik Kratz, and Phillippe Aumont to be critical September performers.

However, the most unlikely Phillie on the roster here in the season’s final month has to be back-up catcher Steven Lerud.

The 27-year-old Lerud was a third-round draft pick of the Pirates back in 2003.  However, prior to late August, he had spent his entire pro baseball career in the minor leagues – playing only nine games above double-A.  And he was not really on anyone’s radar to make the giant leap to the bigs here in 2012.  But when the Phillies had a catching crisis with Brian Schneider and Carlos Ruiz both getting hurt, it opened the door for Lerud to make his unlikely move to the big leagues from double-A Reading.

“I was in shock for a second there,” Lerud admits about when he was first told he was headed to Philadelphia. “I wasn’t sure if they were messing with me or not.  At first they told me I was going to ‘A’ ball, so I wasn’t too happy about that.  Then they got some smiles on their faces and told me I was going to the big leagues.”

Listen to Matt Leon’s interview with Steven Lerud:

As you would expect, Lerud says life was surreal for a bit after his call-up.

“Yeah, it took about a week.  I’m not going to lie, it took me a while to actually realize that I’m here in the big leagues right now.  And now we’re in a playoff race and that’s a lot of fun to be a part of.”

Lerud has 685 minor league games of experience on his resume and he has spent time in four different organizations.  Safe to say, that’s plenty of time to wonder if your phone will ever ring with the news you’ve waited a lifetime to hear.

“You sit in the minor leagues for awhile, especially the last few years for me, I was a back-up. Knew I could catch and throw and had some things to work on offensively.  Yeah, there were times I didn’t think it’d happen.  But there was also a reason that I was where I was.  And I knew if the right opportunity presented itself, I could play in the big leagues.”

Lerud has played just three games for the Phillies since his call-up, going 2 for 10 with a run scored.  It should also be noted that the Phillies went 3-0 in the those three games he started behind the plate.  But with Ruiz back and Kratz stepping up, chances are Lerud will get very few opportunities over the final couple of weeks.  But safe to say, this time in the bigs has made everything worth it.

“It’s been a blast, actually,” Lerud says.  “I know I haven’t been a huge part of it, but it’s been fun when I’ve gotten out there.  Playing with a lot of these guys . . it’s a thrill.”

You can follow Matt on Twitter @mattleonkyw.

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