DUNEDIN, Fla. — Until his home run in the ninth inning of an otherwise forgettable 11-6 Phillies loss to the Blue Jays, Erik Kratz was hitless. In other springs, that would have mattered a great deal to the Phillies catcher.
That was when Kratz was guaranteed nothing.
Listen to Charlie Manuel talk, and the respect the longtime baseball man has for Kratz is quite easy to understand.
"Kratz is one of the hardest working guys on our club," Manuel said. "He's in the best shape. There is no one on our team in better shape and stronger than Kratz. All you have to do is be in there about 5:30 every morning and watch him work out. He's been doing it for the last three years I've known him."
For those three years, Kratz had to prove everything. The 32-year-old catcher's story is well known. This April is the next chapter.
Kratz will shoulder the load with Carlos Ruiz suspended for the first 25 games. At the end of his charmed 2012, Kratz tired. He hit .167 with a .502 OPS in 16 games (13 starts) during September.
Manuel was asked if he thought Kratz could start something like 23 of the 25 games without Ruiz. He did not hesitate.
"If he can handle that, that's fine with me," Manuel said. "I have no problem with that."
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