NEW YORK — In the grand scheme of things, a backup catcher is not paramount to a team's success. The Phillies possessed two backup catchers during the season's first month and one had to go Sunday when Carlos Ruiz returned from his suspension.
Humberto Quintero's locker was cleared early in the morning. The Phillies chose Erik Kratz as their backup and designated Quintero for assignment. They hope to retain Quintero in the organization, but that requires him passing through waivers unclaimed.
"It was a hard decision," Phillies assistant general manager Scott Proefrock said. "He did and fine job for us. He was very professional all the way through. I hope things work out for the best for both parties. He was good. He understood. We're sort of in limbo to figure out what's gonna happen."
The Phillies have 10 days to trade, release or place Quintero on waivers. If the 33-year-old veteran is not claimed by another team, he has already agreed to report to triple-A Lehigh Valley and serve as insurance for an injury. Ruiz has spent time on the disabled list in each of the last four seasons.
"There's a chance he could still be with us," Proefrock said, "and, selfishly, we hope he is."
That is because the current catching depth is unproven. If Quintero goes elsewhere, it makes Steven Lerud the third catcher in case of injury. Lerud is the backup at triple A to 21-year-old Tommy Joseph. The Phillies like Lerud, who was in contention for a roster spot until the end of spring training. Quintero, though, is a proven big leaguer.
Quintero hit .250 with a .636 OPS in seven games. The Phillies opted for Kratz, who has spent more time with the pitching staff and provides a better power threat off the bench. Kratz could have been optioned to triple-A without clearing waivers.
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