When the Philadelphia Phillies learned last November that catcher Carlos Ruiz had been suspended for the first 25 games of the 2013 season, it raised a lot of questions. One that was probably in the background at the time is yet to be answered, even with just two exhibition games remaining for the team.
Steven Lerud and Humberto Quintero are fighting to answer the question of who will be the team’s backup catcher come Monday’s opener.
It may seem like a minor issue, as Erik Kratz should be expected to catch around 20 games before Ruiz returns. But, for those four or five games that Kratz has off in April, the Phillies will need either Lerud or Quintero to fill in.
Lerud made his Major League debut last year for the Phillies, racking up ten plate appearances in limited time with the team. He’s 28, but has bounced around the minor leagues throughout his professional career.
Quintero obviously has the Major League experience that the Phillies may want, but he doesn’t bring a heavy bat to the plate. In his ten years in the Majors, Quintero has just a .590 OPS. What the Phillies do expect out of Quintero is good defense and an ability to handle the pitchers, which at this point, is all they can ask for.
The battle between Lerud and Quintero will be decided by the end of the weekend, but at this point, it’s hard to envision Quintero losing out here. Kratz will be the starter no matter what come Monday (barring a last-minute injury of course), and Quintero will likely be backing him up.
That said, there’s no question the Phillies would rather be starting their season with Ruiz and Kratz as their catchers, but this situation has forced them to reach down a bit and find themselves a player to replace Ruiz for the team’s first 25 games. As of right now, that man looks to be Quintero.