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How Jonathan Lucroy plans to help A’s young pitchers

MESA, Ariz. — It’s been a busy week for new A’s catcher Jonathan Lucroy.
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The A’s officially announced the signing of the two-time All-Star to a one-year deal Monday morning before a 6-5 loss to the Giants, designating left-handed pitcher Jairo Labourt for assignment to make room on the 40-man roster, but that wasn’t even the most momentous thing that’s happened in Lucroy’s life over the past few days.
Lucroy’s wife, Sarah, gave birth to their second child, Easton, on Friday morning just before reports surfaced later that evening saying the A’s had agreed to a contract with the catcher.
“We’ve had a little bit going on to say the least,” Lucroy said. “I’m glad to get back on the field and get back after it.”
A’s general manager David Forst had maintained throughout the offseason that the club was content to enter the regular season with the duo of Bruce Maxwell and Josh Phegley behind the plate.
Forst said that mindset never changed, but after Lucroy remained unsigned for so long in what has been a bizarre free agent market, the A’s had engaged in talks with Lucroy’s agent for the past month. The opportunity to get Lucroy on a manageable deal, reportedly a guaranteed $6.5 million, excited ownership to the point where they decided it was too good to pass up.
“His reputation for handling pitchers, receiving and throwing, this is a guy who is a two-time All-Star we didn’t expect to be available,” Forst said. “His availability turned into a good opportunity for us.”

Melvin on how Lucroy will help out A’s young pitching staff. Says he’ll probably get in games after off day on Wednesday. pic.twitter.com/ThelPdPXYB
— Martin Gallegos (@MartinJGallegos) March 12, 2018

Having played in the American League West the past two years with the Rangers, Lucroy is familiar with the A’s young talent.
Even in a tough division that features reigning World Series champions in the Astros and a much-improved Angels squad, Lucroy said the talent is there to shock surprise people by making a playoff run in 2018.
“I know from calling a game against them, they’ve got some good hitters in that lineup,” Lucroy said. “We’ve got some good young arms on the mound and in the bullpen. I really think we could sneak up on some people and compete at a high level. Our division is going to be good, but we’re gonna be right there with him.”

New A’s catcher Jonathan Lucroy on working with young A’s pitching staff: “Nobody’s giving us credit around here, which is fine.” pic.twitter.com/cs1EaQV02r
— Martin Gallegos (@MartinJGallegos) March 12, 2018

Staying at home in Dallas unsigned for a majority of the offseason, Lucroy said he stayed in shape by making a trip down to University of Lousiana at Lafayette, his alma mater, to work out with the school’s baseball team.
With the regular season less than three weeks away, Lucroy is not worried about the shortened time to adjust to his new team. Traded in the middle of the season the past two years, Lucroy is used to learning how to catch new pitchers in a short amount of time.
“I have experience in the past of going to a team in the midseason having to learn on the fly a bullpen and the starting staff,” Lucroy said. “Both times I’ve done a pretty good job at it, so I’m pretty comfortable by now.”
Lucroy likened the A’s starting staff to the one he caught with the Rockies last season. the oldest pitcher in Colorado’s rotation was 27, which is expected to be the case with the A’s this year.
Acquired by the Rockies at the deadline last year, Lucroy helped Colorado reach the National League wild card game. Lauded by former teammates for his ability to handle a pitching staff, Lucroy hopes to get his hands on the many young A’s pitchers on the roster in order to help them improve as the season goes along by establishing communication and understanding each of their strengths and weaknesses.
“That’s what it’s all about. Taking what they do best and trying to make that better for them,” Lucroy said. “Try to simplify their approach and really just do anything I can to work along with them to get hitters out. These guys are definitely capable of doing well.”
One of the best hitting catchers in baseball from 2012-16, Lucroy’s numbers at the plate took a significant dip last year as he hit .265 with six home runs and 40 RBIs. Known as a terrific pitch framer in the past, Lucroy’s defensive analytic ratings behind the plate also seemed to take a step back.
Lucroy said he did not play to his full potential, but that last season’s numbers do not mean he’s washed up. He referenced his contact rate of 87.9 percent in 2017, which was the highest in baseball, leading him to believe the down year was more of just an aberration.
“I got no excuse on last year. I just didn’t play well. That wasn’t who I was,” Lucroy said. “My track record speaks for itself. I fully believe that. I know what I’m worth and I know what I’ve done. Defensively I have some work to do, which I’ve already been doing in the offseason. I definitely I plan on being right back in the mix.”

A’s manager Bob Melvin on what Jonathan Lucroy brings to the lineup pic.twitter.com/SrWYyekDqL
— Martin Gallegos (@MartinJGallegos) March 12, 2018

A former catcher, Melvin knows a thing or two about having experience behind the plate.
Lucroy, 31, brings a plethora of knowledge on hitters from both leagues to the A’s. His eight years of big league experience is more time than Maxwell and Phegley have combined in their careers.
“No knock on the other guys, but experience is experience,” Melvin said. “I think he’ll be a good resource for all of our other catchers as well. But I think for our starting pitchers in particular, if we can’t go out and get ourselves a starter, this is the next best thing. He has a great reputation for being a terrific leader behind the plate.”
Though he’s open to filling the much-needed role of veteran leader in the clubhouse, Lucroy said he’s just going to be himself. A member of three playoff teams in his career, Lucroy said he will be there for guidance if anyone wants it.
“I’m not gonna go out there and actively try to be a leader. I’ve been told that I am in the past, so I think it’s really leading by example and helping guys get better,” Lucroy said. “I’ve caught a lot of really good pitchers and been around a lot of really great players. The best clubhouses I’ve been in are always ones that are positive and loose. My goal is to keep everybody loose and relaxed and just go out and play and have fun.”
The plan for Lucroy is to get him some at-bats the next few days over at the A’s minor league complex. After the off day Wednesday, the A’s expect to begin playing Lucroy in actual spring games.

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