Charlie Manuel says of all the players that turned up at training camp this spring, catcher Erik Kratz was in the best shape.

It’s a good thing, too, because when the season opens on April 1 in Atlanta, Kratz isn’t going to be the backup catcher.

He’s going to be the starter.

With Carlos Ruiz to serve a 25-game suspension for a failed drug test, the 32-year-old Kratz is going to shoulder the load behind the plate. If it works out that Kratz has to catch 23 or 25 games in the first month of the season, Manuel sees no problem with that.

“Kratz is one of the hard-workingest guys on our club. He’s in the best shape. There isn’t one guy on our team in as good of shape or as strong as Kratz,” Manuel said. “All you have to do is be in [the clubhouse] everyday at 5:30 in the morning and watch him workout. He’s been doing it for the last three years that I’ve known him.”

It’s made for a more relaxed camp for Kratz, the Lansdale, Pa. native. His spot on the roster all but assured, Kratz doesn’t have to worry about his spring batting average or his production behind the plate. In the past it had always been the other way around for Kratz who spent the first part of his career just trying to make the team out of spring training.

With the pressure off, Kratz can work on learning the pitching staff and fine-tuning his hitting stroke in time for opening day.