Recently acquired catcher a hit with batterymates, is thriving at plate
By Ryan Posner
ARLINGTON -- It hasn't taken Jonathan Lucroy long to make an impact offensively for the Rangers since being acquired from the Brewers on the Aug. 1 non-waiver Trade Deadline. In 15 games, he's hit seven home runs with 14 RBIs.
But Lucroy's presence is being felt more than just at the plate. He's learning how to work with a new pitching staff after being thrust into the middle of a pennant race. Manager Jeff Banister has said Lucroy has had an immediate impact in that area as well.
"He's really honed his craft and it takes a while to learn that. ... The fact is, is that our guys, in my opinion, have thrown well to him," said Banister. "You can see some confidence in that regard."
Lucroy said he has come to the perfect situation.
"It has nothing to do with me, it has everything to do with this clubhouse. They've been nothing but accepting of me," Lucroy said. "It's been pretty impressive how much these guys want to win and how hard they play every day."
Before the acquisition of Lucroy, Bobby Wilson, Robinson Chirinos and Bryan Holaday had caught the bulk of Texas' games. Wilson and Holaday were designated for assignment on Aug. 1 and Chirinos has moved to a backup role.
Lucroy's preparation is something that has stood out to the Rangers' pitchers. His locker in the clubhouse is in a corner away from most of the starting pitchers. But that hasn't kept Lucroy from making his rounds as he continues to learn about his new teammates.
"He really does put in a lot of time to studying guys and having conversations with us to know how we tick and what our philosophy is in trying to get guys out," said Cole Hamels. "That's been nice to see that and to build on that."
The time Lucroy puts into preparing for a game stands out.
"I've seen him in the clubhouse early, always studying, so it gives me trust about the pitch calls," Yu Darvish said. "He frames the ball well, so borderline pitches are called strikes. For me, that's a big thing."
Lucroy's routine has helped him become a two-time All-Star in his seven-year career, and it gave him some credibility before he even caught a game with Texas.
"If you go hire a CEO and he's got awards for turning companies around and doing great things, yeah, there's credibility. You go hire a writer and he's won a Pulitzer Prize, he's got instant credibility," Banister said. "So it's an All-Star coming over. He's going to have credibility with that."
Banister said that the trust you build with a pitcher can be lost as easily as it's gained. But Lucroy's preparation and track record makes a difference.
"The trust is being built based on success and it's based on preparation," Banister said. "The more comfortable you can make a guy on the mound, and you essentially kind of turn that white noise off inside his skull and put him on autopilot. It makes almost every pitcher more valuable."
It's not just the pitchers who have taken notice of Lucroy's work behind the plate.
"We knew when we acquired him he was a good hitter and good catcher, but he's been above what we expected," Adrian Beltre said. "It's nice to see him not only swing the bat well, but call a good game and play a mentor for the pitchers that we have."
As quick as the pitching staff is to credit Lucroy for his ability to handle them so far, they're not forgetful of the catchers that preceded him. Those catchers -- Wilson, Holaday, Chirinos and Brett Nicholas -- have been essential in the Rangers being in first place in the American League West since May 29.
"We're on the top because they've helped the team get here," Martin Perez said. "I have to give credit to those guys, too."
Lucroy, who turned 30 in June, has maintained that his simple approach at the plate is what's helped him get off to a good start offensively with Texas, and it's the same approach he's taken at the plate his entire career.
Lucroy has been able to translate that mentality over to his defense, as well. He consistently reciprocates the credit that the pitching staff has given him start after start early into his Rangers tenure.
"It's pretty simple catching these guys. Everybody's going to have their days when they're not as sharp as they could be," Lucroy said. "We've had some really good starts, and we've had some guys put up some really big innings for us. It's pretty easy for me to be back there."
It's been five years since Lucroy has played in the postseason, so he is eager for another chance with his new team.
"You start connecting and having fun together and winning, and things start rolling. It's pretty fun," Lucroy said. "It's a long season, you got to have fun together and you got to make it interesting. These guys here definitely do, and it's helping me kind of open up."
Ryan Posner is a reporter for MLB.com based in Texas. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.