The cameras first surrounded Erik Kratz, who said he was "disappointed" when he arrived Monday to Citizens Bank Park and did not see his name in the lineup. Then, the pack shuffled to the other side of the Phillies clubhouse to question Humberto Quintero.
All the while, Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels stared as the two catchers were interviewed. Halladay, immersed in preparation for his start, raised his head from his notes and sneered. The players may have viewed it as a media concoction, but the melodrama Monday was set in motion by Halladay's words five days earlier.
Halladay said a pitch he threw to Atlanta's Justin Upton was "halfhearted." He insinuated Kratz failed to do his part.
"We talked about going away to him," Halladay said. "If we we’re going in, we were going to stand him up. We went in with a low target, which isn't what we wanted to do. You're not going to get him out there. What I wanted to do wasn't executed."
Both Charlie Manuel and Rich Dubee said Monday that Halladay had not voiced any displeasure to them. Kratz was unaware of the comments until a reporter relayed them. Nonetheless, Kratz was on the bench for the second time in three days.
Halladay — and any pitcher, for that matter — always has the option of shaking off his catcher.
"They've got the ball in their hand last time I looked," Dubee said of his pitchers.
The staff undoubtedly misses Carlos Ruiz, once labeled "The Ace Receiver" on a Sports Illustrated cover. Ruiz is suspended for the first 25 games for stimulant use. He can return April 28. The Phillies lugged a major-league-worst 7.10 ERA into Monday.
Kratz shouldered the blame.
"There's one thing that's consistent back there and that's me," Kratz said. "So I have to look at myself and look at how we're doing back there. If I can't help the team improve, they put [Quintero] in there. I have to a better job, for sure."
Kratz, 32, was a career minor-league player until 2012. Quintero, 33, has spent parts of 11 seasons as a backup. Before Halladay pitches, he meets with Dubee and the day's catcher for an extensive scouting report. Halladay does much of the talking. He spent extra time alone with Kratz at Turner Field before his first start.
"Are we on the same page? I hope so," Kratz said. "We didn't do well last time, so maybe we weren't."
Kratz said Halladay never expressed discontent. The line of questioning from reporters, though, did not surprise him.
"When the lineup went up," he said, "you expect that."
Manuel said Kratz will catch Lee on Tuesday. He cited Quintero's game calling Saturday as a reason for his Monday start. If there was a problem, the manager was not privy.
"I don't know if they had issues," Manuel said. "... Sometimes, there will be times when the pitcher doesn't like what the catcher is throwing down. He can always shake him off."
Have a question? Send it to Matt Gelb's Mailbag.