Our trip back through time in Philadelphia Phillies history which remembers the most random pitcher and player from each 1971-2019 team reaches the position player who, if you blinked in 2013, you may have missed during the only three big-league games in which he ever played.
It was during the 19th round of the MLB Amateur Draft of 2008 that the Phillies chose Fresno State and native SoCal product Steve Susdorf, who had been drafted the prior year by the Detroit Tigers but decided to return to school rather than sign and turn pro.
It was a good decision by Susdorf, who became the Western Athletic Conference Player of the Year during the 2008 collegiate season. He then helped lead Fresno State to one of the more stunning upset runs in college baseball history. First, they won the WAC tournament to get into the College World Series. The Bulldogs then continued their sudden hot run, ultimately becoming the only team in CWS history to win the national championship despite having 30 losses.
Susdorf would sign with the Phillies early enough to get into his first 50 professional games that same summer, two with short-season Williamsport and then 48 at Low-A Lakewood.
An advanced college prospect, Susdorf quickly rose through three levels of the Phillies minor league system during 2009. He started with 21 games back at Lakewood, moved to High-A Clearwater for 40 games, and then wrapped his season with 24 games at Double-A Reading. Susdorf hit well everyone he went that summer, finishing with a .324/.389/.467 slash line and 35 extra-base hits over 339 plate appearances across 85 total games.
Organizational considerations placed him back at Clearwater in 2011 and he would spend an entire season there, hitting .278 with career highs of 11 home runs, 77 RBIs, 41 extra-base hits, and 60 runs scored as a starting corner outfielder with the Threshers.
As the big-league Phillies were enjoying their record-setting 102-win season in 2011, Susdorf spent the entire year at Double-A Reading. He was again used mostly as a corner outfielder that season and again hit well, slashing .339/.406/.496 with 51 runs scored over just 78 games.
Unfortunately for Susdorf, his 2011 season ended early when he suffered the double-whammy of a dislocated left shoulder and a knee injury, the latter of which required surgery that brought his season to an early end in late July.
Returning in 2012, Susdorf again hit well over 33 games with Reading and was promoted to Triple-A Lehigh Valley. Over 84 games with the IronPigs he hit .282 with a .350 on-base percentage and had reached the doorstep of Major League Baseball.
That next step would finally come in mid-summer of 2013. Susdorf played most of that year back at Lehigh Valley, where he hit .313 with a .390 on-base percentage while swiping a career-high 11 bases.
The Phillies were slipping past their glory years at this point in what would prove to be their first losing season in more than a decade. Still with a winning record in mid-July, the club began an eight-game losing streak that would become 13 of 14, a stretch that would bury them in the standings.
Roy Halladay struggled through the final 13 games of his Hall of Fame career in that summer of 2013 during what was an injury-marred season. Jimmy Rollins, Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Carlos Ruiz, Cliff Lee, and Jonathan Papelbon were all slipping into their mid-30’s. Only Cole Hamels at age 29 could still be considered as in his prime.
It was this aging, struggling team that a 27-year-old rookie Susdorf was called to join at the end of that month of July 2013. Still, it was the big-leagues, and he was happy to be there. It was on July 25, 2013 that manager Charlie Manuel first told him to grab a bat and get ready to hit.
With two outs and Erik Kratz on first base in the top of the 7th inning at Busch Stadium in Saint Louis, the Phillies trailed the host Cardinals by a 3-1 score. Susdorf was sent up to pinch-hit for pitcher Kyle Kendrick as the potential tying run. Instead, his hard grounder went off Cards’ pitcher Lance Lynn and directly to second baseman Matt Carpenter, becoming a 1-4-6-3 double play to end the inning.
His next opportunity would come two days later on July 27, 2013 at Comerica Park in Detroit. In the bottom of the 5th inning the host Tigers were already routing the Phillies by a 9-0 score, and Manuel decided to rest veterans Utley, Rollins, and Michael Young.
As part of a massive series of lineup moves in which three players entered the game and three switched positions, Susdorf was brought on to play left field. He would handle one fly ball cleanly in the bottom of the 8th, and then ground to second in his only at-bat in the top of the 9th inning.
The following night on July 28, 2013, still in Detroit, Susdorf would make what was his only start in Major League Baseball in what would prove to be his final game in the big-leagues. In a 12-4 romp by the host Tigers, Susdorf started in left field and hit ninth in Manuel’s batting order. He would go 1-4 on the night, striking out once and scoring a run.
The Phillies were still competitive in the game when his only big offensive moment came around. Susdorf led off the top of the 5th inning against Tigers starter Rick Porcello by line double down the left field line. Rollins bunted him over to third base, and three batters later Susdorf would roll home on a base hit by Darin Ruf to put the Phillies up by 3-0 at that point.
The lead wouldn’t last as the Tigers exploded with an eight-run crooked inning in the bottom of the 6th, putting the game out of reach. With two outs in the top of the 9th inning, Susdorf came to the plate against Detroit’s lefty reliever Phil Coke and struck out on four pitches. He walked away from the plate as the Tigers celebrated their victory, and then walked off a big-league diamond for the final time.
Susdorf finished the season back at Triple-A and then played a six-game stint in the Venezuelan Winter League during the off-season. He returned once again to Lehigh Valley in 2014 and hit .276 over 84 games but was never called back to Philadelphia. The Phillies finally gave him his release on July 10, bringing his pro career to an end at age 28.