DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Erik Kratz clubbed a two-run homer to left field in his only plate appearance during Saturday's 11-6 loss to the Blue Jays, the catcher's first hit this spring.
Kratz clubbed nine homers for the Phillies in 50 games last season as they attempted to crawl back into the playoff picture, and manager Charlie Manuel has no doubt about the 32-year-old backstop's ability to be Philadelphia's primary catcher in the early going this season. And Kratz will have to shoulder the load in the first 25 games, as Carlos Ruiz will sit out as part of his suspension for using a banned amphetamine.
Asked if Kratz could handle starting 23 of those first 25 games, Manuel responded, "If he can handle that, that's fine with me. I have no problem with that."
Manuel praised Kratz toward the end of last season for his value as a backup catcher: his durability, strength, power and his ability to call a game and control baserunners. Manuel added to that Saturday, lauding the man who's spent the better part of 11 seasons in the Minor Leagues for his work ethic and conditioning.
"That just goes to show you who he is and how much heart he's got and determination," Manuel said. "He stayed with it and he kept right on working.
"Kratz is one of the [hardest working] guys on our club. He's in the best shape. There's nobody on our team in better shape or stronger than Kratz. All you've got to do is be in there about 5 o'clock, 5:30 every morning and watch him work out. He's been doing it the last three years that I've known him."