So the Phillies were not precluded from retaining depth, knowing Schneider could prove a liability again. They kept Erik Kratz, a career minor-leaguer who impressed team officials, on the 40-man roster all winter. They are resting Ruiz, who has required a trip to the disabled list in each of the previous three seasons, with more frequency this spring.
History suggests the Phillies will need a third catcher for a meaningful chunk of games, hence their desire to save someone who at least had some exposure to the pitching staff. In 2011, Dane Sardinha and Kratz combined to play 17 games. A year before that, Sardinha and Paul Hoover played in 21 games, including 15 starts.
Kratz, 31, is a triple-A all-star for two straight seasons. The Telford native hit .288 with 15 home runs and an .838 OPS at triple-A Lehigh Valley in 2011. He appeared in two September games with the Phillies and has options remaining.
"That's the reason why we kept him on the roster," assistant general manager Scott Proefrock said. "We probably would have lost him as a minor-league free agent. There's been interest from other teams just because of the catching market. He's a durable guy."
Kratz played in a career-high 103 games for the IronPigs. He never had more than 211 plate appearances in a single minor-league season until he was 25, so Kratz believes his hitting has finally flourished with regular playing time.
"Being here last year, you see how hard these guys work," Kratz said. "It motivates you. When you're kept on the 40-man roster, it motivates you even more. I have an opportunity to help this team. Maybe it's at the end of spring training. Maybe it's in April. Whenever it is, that's what I'm going for."
Ideally, the Phillies would see an uptick in production (and health) from Schneider. He said he took pride in the team's 27-8 record with him in the starting lineup, but he knows the reality.
"A lot of that is coincidence," Schneider said. "I understand that. I'm not naive. But ultimately, that's what you want. You don't want to be a liability back there."
As for his .176 batting average and .502 OPS, Schneider was candid. "No one wants to do what I did last year," he said.
The Phillies prioritized defense in re-signing Schneider. His relationship with Vance Worley, who found success with Schneider as his catcher, was paramount in the decision.
"I tried to make it as clear as possible that I wanted to come here," Schneider said. "I'd do whatever it takes to get here. There's a point where you want to go where you're comfortable and happy."
Now, all the Phillies ask is for that favor to be returned.
Contact Matt Gelb
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