DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Erik Kratz clubbed a two-run homer to left field in his only plate appearance during Saturday's 11-6 loss to the Blue Jays, the catcher's first hit this spring.
Kratz clubbed nine homers for the Phillies in 50 games last season as they attempted to crawl back into the playoff picture, and manager Charlie Manuel has no doubt about the 32-year-old backstop's ability to be Philadelphia's primary catcher in the early going this season. And Kratz will have to shoulder the load in the first 25 games, as Carlos Ruiz will sit out as part of his suspension for using a banned amphetamine.
Asked if Kratz could handle starting 23 of those first 25 games, Manuel responded, "If he can handle that, that's fine with me. I have no problem with that."
Manuel praised Kratz toward the end of last season for his value as a backup catcher: his durability, strength, power and his ability to call a game and control baserunners. Manuel added to that Saturday, lauding the man who's spent the better part of 11 seasons in the Minor Leagues for his work ethic and conditioning.
"That just goes to show you who he is and how much heart he's got and determination," Manuel said. "He stayed with it and he kept right on working.
"Kratz is one of the [hardest working] guys on our club. He's in the best shape. There's nobody on our team in better shape or stronger than Kratz. All you've got to do is be in there about 5 o'clock, 5:30 every morning and watch him work out. He's been doing it the last three years that I've known him."
Lee pleased with outing despite allowing homer
DUNEDIN, Fla. -- It's said often at this time of year that Spring Training results should be taken with a grain of salt, perhaps less than that, but it's especially true on a chilly Florida day when the wind is blowing straight out.
But those were the conditions in which Cliff Lee made his second Grapefruit League start Saturday, and his final line reflected the hitter-friendly environment more so than it did his pitching: three runs on five hits, including two doubles and a homer, with three strikeouts in three innings.
"I feel good. I feel like I'm locating very well," Lee said. "I just missed up a little bit. It's just a matter of getting repetitions and getting comfortable with your delivery and repeating. ... I feel good. I feel like I'm right where I need to be. Physically, I feel great."
Lee threw every pitch in his arsenal in the Phillies' 11-6 loss to the Blue Jays and was pleased with how he's progressing this spring. He admittedly left a few too many pitches up in the strike zone, and the Blue Jays sent them into the wind for extra-base hits. But the lefty also effectively pounded the strike zone, tossing 32 of his 43 pitches for strikes.
You could tell it would be an unusual day for Lee right away. Jose Reyes and Melky Cabrera each laced a double in the first inning, and Edwin Encarnacion added an RBI single later on. With two outs in the second, light-hitting second baseman Emilio Bonifacio crushed a home run to left field that likely would've been a routine fly ball out had the wind not been pushing it out.
"Still hit it. Still a homer," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. "That's baseball. You've gotta hit it."
Lee bounced back with a perfect third inning and got J.P. Arencibia, the last batter he faced, to stare at a called third strike. While the results may not have meant much, Lee was mostly happy that all he has left to do is refine his pitches and continue to build up strength.
"It's just more about getting your reps in and getting your body ready to throw more pitches and more innings and preparing for the 162-game regular season, plus hopefully another month there at the end. That's where the focus is," Lee said. "You want to have success every time you take the mound, but at this point in spring, it's more about just making sure you feel right and building up your pitch count."
Stutes shows improvement in second outing
DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Right-hander Michael Stutes gave up a run on two hits Saturday, but he showed some improvement from his first outing of the spring, when he gave up two runs on two walks and a triple against the Tigers on Feb. 25.
Stutes recorded two quick outs to lead off the sixth inning Saturday, then Luis Jimenez stroked a single to center field and Josh Thole knocked a double down the right-field line. A throwing error on the play by right fielder Laynce Nix allowed Jimenez, listed at 6-foot-3 and 280 pounds, to come all the way home from first base. Jimenez would have had a hard time getting home without the error, meaning Stutes would have had another chance at a shutout inning.
Stutes is part of a crowded battle for the last three spots in the Phillies' bullpen, but he's also getting back into the flow of the game after arthroscopic surgery on his right shoulder last June. Before this spring, Stutes hadn't pitched in a game since last April 21, so Phillies manager Charlie Manuel expected it might take time for Stutes to round into form.
"He hasn't pitched since last year. He needs to work," Manuel said. "He'll get better as he goes out."
Back in 2011, Stutes put up a 6-2 record and a 3.63 ERA to go along with 58 strikeouts in 62 innings over 57 games.
• On Saturday, the Phillies renewed the contracts of right-handers Tyler Cloyd and B.J. Rosenberg and left-hander Jake Diekman. With those signings, the Phillies have everyone on their 40-man roster officially under contract for the 2013 season.
• Ryan Howard, who homered in Saturday's 11-6 loss, will be in one of the Phillies' split-squad lineups Sunday afternoon, Manuel said. Philadelphia is keeping one team at home, to play the Blue Jays at Bright House Field, and sending another to Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota, Fla., to face the Orioles.
Sunday will mark Howard's ninth straight Grapefruit League start, as Manuel tries to get the first baseman back in baseball shape.
"Howard's getting there," Manuel said. "He's going after Ripken's record."
• Cameron Rupp had a locker and a No. 65 jersey waiting for him in the Phillies' home clubhouse at Bright House Field on Saturday morning.
The 24-year-old catcher was added to Philadelphia's Major League Spring Training roster as a non-roster invitee to make up for the loss of Sebastian Valle, who left Friday to join Mexico's World Baseball Classic squad. Rupp hit .267 with a .770 OPS in 104 games for Class A Advanced Clearwater in 2012, his third Minor League season.