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Kratz gets callup during All-Star Game

IL catcher learns in fourth inning he's headed to Pittsburgh
July 15, 2010
ALLENTOWN, Pa. -- Pirates farmhand Erik Kratz flied out to center field in his only at-bat of Wednesday's Triple-A All-Star Game. But he couldn't have asked for a better night at the ballpark.

Indianapolis Indians manager Frank Kremblas, a coach on the International League team, pulled Kratz aside in the bottom of the fourth inning and told the 30-year-old what the skipper apparently had known since Friday -- Kratz had been called up to the Major Leagues.

Kremblas took a less than forthright approach with his player, however.

"I was assuming I was going to play one more inning, [but IL manager] Charlie [Montoyo] came up to me and he was like, 'Hey, Frank thinks you might be a little concussed,' because I got hit by a foul pitch," Kratz said.

Kratz, a 29th-round pick of the Blue Jays in 2002, is playing for Kremblas for the second straight year. He admitted he had a little pain in his jaw, but he was sure he wasn't seriously injured.

Minutes later, Kremblas approached Kratz and told him if he didn't get an at-bat in the fourth, he would sit out the rest of the game.

"I said, 'You know, Frank, I'm fine. It hit me, but it was just a foul tip,'" Kratz said.

His manager told him he looked "a little out of sorts."

Kratz was reluctant to argue with Kremblas, but he was clearly confused. Having taken the joke as far as he could, Kremblas finally came clean.

"Well, what do you want to do?" he asked. "Do you want another at-bat or do you want to play in the big leagues?"

"He's a riot," Kratz said. "He's known for five days. That is Frank. He's a great manager. He's got a ton of energy."

Kratz was the IL's Top Star in last year's Triple-A All-Star Game, collecting a homer and a double. He recalled that performance fondly after Kremblas told him of the promotion.

"I said, 'Wow, these All-Star Games are eventful.'"

Kratz grew up in Telford, Pa., about 40 minutes from Allentown, and had plenty of support at Wednesday's game. Asked how many friends and family members were present, he replied, "As much as I could pack in."

Ironically, a sister in California who called during the game was the first relative to receive the good news.

Kratz reports to Pittsburgh on Thursday for a 6 p.m. workout.

In brief

Stick to the agenda: After walking in his first at-bat, Angels prospect Mark Trumbo singled to left on the second pitch he saw from Nate Bump in the fourth inning. He was merely following his game plan when he took that swing.

Asked before the game what he expected from the largely unfamiliar International League pitching staff, he said, "I've got no idea. I've got no idea what I'm going to be seeing up there. I've got nothing.

"I'm going to be swinging early, hoping I get a good pitch."

Staying power: Pat Misch managed to strike out veteran Minor League slugger John Lindsey to end the fifth inning, but the Dodgers farmhand didn't make it easy. It took 14 pitches to retire Lindsey, who came on as a pinch-hitter and fouled off eight offerings.

"He's one of the best hitters in Triple-A," Misch said. "It was just a battle."

The more pitches Misch threw, the more focused he became on throwing strikes -- even if it meant leaving a pitch over the heart of the plate.

"He's still got to hit the ball. If you're scared of [a hitter], you don't belong here," the Mets farmhand said.

Theft prevention: Both managers said they would have their teams try to steal some bases early in the game.

"If the guys are going to be able, they're going to run," said IL skipper Charlie Montoyo of the Durham Bulls, "We're going to be aggressive early on."

PCL manager Daren Brown of the Tacoma Rainiers also gave his players the green light.

"If you're a guy who steals bases, go ahead and take the bag," he said before the game.

There was one problem: the pitching staffs were so effective that only six players reached base over the first three innings. Montoyo's team didn't get a hit until the fifth.

As a result, there was only one stolen base attempt, a two-out, seventh-inning theft by Doug Deeds of the PCL's Reno Aces.

Pitcher's best friend: When the IL Stars were retired after a pair of doubles and a single in the sixth inning, it wasn't because they stopped hitting the ball hard.

With one out and a runner on second, Durham's Dan Johnson tagged a pitch to deep right-center field. Bulls teammate Elliot Johnson was on second and among those certain the ball would fall for the third two-bagger of the inning. He was rounding third when Deeds, playing center, caught the ball and fired to second to complete the double play.

Josh Jackson is a contributor to