Kratz Finds His Place With Brewers In Pennant Race

By Greg Madia
Daily News-Record

AP Photo/John Minchillo

HARRISONBURG – In his Milwaukee debut, Erik Kratz gave himself a chance to stick with the franchise.

The Eastern Mennonite University product clubbed a home run, wellbeyond the left centere-field fence at Miller Park, that was part of a 2-for-5 performance in the Brewers’ come-from-behind win over Mets on May 26.

“I’ve been with 11 or 12 different organizations now and I forget how many it’s been,” Kratz said by phone this week. “But every time you go to a new organization, you now how good of a player you are.

“And I know how good of a player I am and what I can do, but baseball doesn’t always reciprocate that right out of the gate.”

He had multi-hit games in his first four contests with the Brewers after being traded from the Yankees, who had Kratz at Triple-A Scranton where he began his 17th season of professional baseball. This is the nnth straight year he’s appeared with an MLB squad.

“You go through slumps, or at least I do.” Kratz said. “A player like (Brewers outfielder) Christian Yelich doesn’t go through slumps, he’s awesome all the time.

“But you almost look at yourself sometimes and go, “Have you ever played baseball before?” And you don’t want those stretches to come right when you go to a new team.

“I was fortunate that early on I was swinging the bat really well and now I’ve got it going again and it’s something that’s exciting. As much as other guys are super accepting when you come to a new team, they’re also like, “We don’t want to pick up someone else’s trash.” You want a guy that’ll step in and play the game.”

And when Kratz already had the most big-league at-bats he’s gotten in a season since 2014. The 38-year-old is hitting .235 with three homers.

He said he’s enjoyed his time with the Brewers, too, while showasing a knuckleball when the team used him as a mop-up pitcher in lopsided outcomes. He struck out Austin Barnes of the Dodgers with the pitch this past Sunday.

“But I signed with the Yankees (in the season) for several reasons,” Kratz said. “But one was because of the relationship with them with them and how professional they are, and I knew the situation.”

New York went into spring training knowing budding star Gary Sanchez and quality back up Austin Romine were the two catchers that the team would leave Florida with.

“And there was a chance I wasn’t even the first guy called up with the Yankees,” Kratz said. “But I also knew how professional the organization was along with the general manager, (Britan) Cashman, so I had conversations with them saying that, “This is where I want to be. I want to help the Yankees,” but they also said that they wouldn’t stay in the way or get in the way of a big league job if there was not an immediate job with them.”

Kratz said as soon as he arrived in Milwaukee, he could see the Brewers were focused on winning this season.

Yelich was acquired vio trade in the offseason from the Marlins and outfielder Lorenzo Cain was signed in free agency. First baseman Jesus Aguilar developed into an all-star selection this season.

“I knew I was going right to the big leagues so that was nice going from AAA to the big leagues,” Kratz said, “and I also knew I was going to a playoff-contending team, and that’s always awesome.”

Chicago leads the division by three games, but the Cubs and Brewers will meet eight more times before the end of the season. Milwaukee currently tops the NL wild card standings by a game over Atlanta.

“We’re not playing to make the playoffs. We’ll make the playoffs,” Kratz said. “We’re playing these last two months of the regular season to improve on things that are going to help us win the World Series. It may seem like in some cases that to win the World Series you’ve got to get hot, but no, you’ve got to do the right things. Good teams do the right things at the right time and they make it happen.”