This ‘Phillies 50‘ series on the most random players from each team over Philadelphia Phillies history from the years 1971-2019 reaches the position player who had the least impact on the 2012 ball club combined with a minimal big-league career.

That player is catcher Steven Lerud, who saw nine total games of big-league action across the 2012-13 seasons with the Phillies, and only three of those for a 2012 club that finished at .500 with an 81-81 record. It was the first Phillies team in a decade to finish without a winning mark.

Lerud was born and raised in Reno, Nevada and became a third round draft pick of the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2003 out of Galena High School in his home town.

Over the next half-dozen years, Lerud toiled away in the Bucs minor league system, reaching as high as Double-A Altoona in both 2008 and 2009. He also played during the off-season in the Hawaiian Winter League in 2006 and the Arizona Fall League following the 2008 campaign.

In November 2009 at age 25, Lerud became a free agent. A month later he signed on with the Kansas City Royals, who then shipped him to the Baltimore Orioles as spring training was ending in 2010.

Lerud got his first taste of Triple-A ball at Norfolk in the Orioles system during that 2010 season, but the O’s sent him back down to Double-A Bowie in 2011 where he played that entire season.

A free agent again, Lerud signed on with the Phillies on December 12, 2011. He was joining a team that had just won 102 games and was coming off five straight NL East Division crowns, but one that was headed for a downturn that very few saw coming.

The Phillies placed him at Double-A Reading where Lerud slashed .235/.350/.304 with almost no offensive production over 36 games and 120 plate appearances. He seemed like an extremely unlikely candidate to ever play in the big-leagues.

As the month of August drew to a close the Phillies were already floundering, buried at an uncharacteristic seven games below the .500 mark, 17 1/2 in back of Washington in the NL East race, and nine games out of an NL Wildcard berth.

The longtime starting catcher in Philadelphia, Carlos Ruiz, had made the NL All-Star team earlier that summer and was in the midst of his best individual offensive season. However, Ruiz was lost to the club in early August for a month due to a battle with plantar fasciitis.

When Ruiz went down the catching duties in Philly were split by manager Charlie Manuel with 32-year-old Erik Kratz getting most of the work backed up by 35-year-old veteran Brian Schneider.

In what would prove to be the last of his 13 seasons in Major League Baseball, Schneider broke down physically and was gone by late August. That necessitated a new backup catcher for a couple of weeks while Ruiz finished his recovery, and the Phillies decided to give Lerud a shot at the big time.

On August 30, 2012 at Citizens Bank Park in a game against the New York Mets, Manuel wrote Lerud’s name in as catcher and slid the 27-year-old into the eighth slot of his starting lineup.

In the bottom of the 3rd inning facing Mets’ southpaw Jon Niese, Lerud stepped up to the plate in a big-league game for the very first time. On a 1-2 pitch he grounded weakly to first baseman Ike Davis.

Lerud wouldn’t have to wait long for his next opportunity. The very next inning he came up again facing Niese with the Phillies having just tied the score at 2-2 on an RBI double by Ty Wigginton that brought home John Mayberry Jr. On the second pitch, Lerud lined a base hit to center field, moving Wigginton to third.

He would get one more shot in that game, grounding out to second base against reliever Ramon Ramirez for the final out in the bottom of the 7th inning. The Phillies went on to win 3-2 behind a nice outing from Kyle Kendrick and a clean save from Jonathan Papelbon.

As the calendar turned to September and rosters expanded, Lerud was kept up with the Phillies as an emergency catcher. He received starts in two more games, including a doubleheader on September 9 in which Ruiz returned to catch the other game.

Overall, Lerud registered two hits over 10 plate appearances across the three starts behind the dish. In a 4-2 win over the host Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ball Park on September 3, 2012, Lerud scored his lone run when he singled in the top of the 5th inning in front of a Jimmy Rollins three-run homer.

He seemed to mesh well with Papelbon, who registered clean saves in two of his three appearances. He also caught Tyler Cloyd for a pair of starts, one strong and one horrendous.

Lerud stayed with the Phillies organization for 2013 and was called back to the big-leagues for a half-dozen appearances during the month of June after Ruiz was lost to a hamstring injury. He made just one start and went 0-5 at the plate overall, leaving his two hits and one run scored during 2012 to stand as the lone positive stats on his career ledger.

After the 2013 season, Lerud again became a free agent. He would spend the next four years bouncing across five different organizations, receiving spring training invitations as catching depth but never getting back to the big-leagues.

I remember how hard it was to get to the big leagues and that feeling when you do get to step into the batter’s box is cool,” he said per Steve Mims at The Register-Guard in June 2018 . “Got a couple hits, something I will never forget.”

In January 2018 at age 33, Lerud was named as the manager of the Eugene Emeralds, the short-season minor league affiliate in the Chicago Cubs organization, and led to Ems to a Northwest League championship. Last year, the Cubs promoted him to become manager of their High-A affiliate at Myrtle Beach, and Lerud was re-signed to that same role for the 2020 season.

 

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