MESA, Ariz. (AP) — Jonathan Lucroy’s first spring training game in an Oakland Athletics’ uniform didn’t stand out in the box score. He went 0 for 2 on two groundouts against a Seattle Mariners split squad.
Being on a new team, there also was the occasional confusion with a different set of signs. But a closer look at Lucroy’s six innings behind the plate Saturday revealed something the A’s will be counting on this season — the veteran catcher’s presence.
“It’s awesome. He’s very well prepared and he definitely takes charge,” said Sean Manaea, who started for the A’s. “He definitely controls the entire diamond. Having a guy like that, especially with the amount of time and the amount of knowledge that he has is huge.”
Lucroy, signed to a one-year, $6.5 million contract on Monday, is set to take over as the starting catcher for Oakland despite not signing until well into spring training. If his past is any indication, the offensive numbers will also be there.
The 31-year-old two-time All-Star batted .265 with six home runs and 40 RBIs in 123 games last season for Texas and Colorado. He hit .310 in 46 with the Rockies as they made a run to the National League wild-card game.
Lucroy was among the late free-agent signees in baseball this year, and it might seems like a crash course to be ready to guide the A’s young pitching staff into the fast-approaching season while individually getting at-bats. But Lucroy says he will be ready.
“I’ve been traded twice in the middle of a season, I’m not worried about that,” he said. “I’ve got way more time than I had then. I need to see more at-bats out here. I’ll be ready when the time comes.”
Lucroy hit .292 in what was an All-Star campaign for him in 2016, with 24 home runs and 81 runs batted in. His numbers dipped last season, but the cost-effective A’s seized the chance to add Lucroy when the opportunity arose.
“We fully expect that this will be a bounce back year for him,” A’s general manager David Forst said. “I didn’t think that a catcher of Jonathan’s caliber would be available at a cost that would work for us. When there is a guy like that out there than you have to try to jump on it if you can.”
On the day he arrived at A’s spring training, Lucroy made several references to the team’s potential as a darkhorse in the AL West.
“I’m looking forward to working with these guys and helping them get better,” Lucroy said. “Obviously no one’s giving us credit around here . but I think that we’re going to be sneaky. I really do.”
Lucroy spent his first few days with the A’s getting at-bats on the minor league side and catching bullpen sessions to better get to know the pitchers.
“The physical part is the easy part. The hard part is the signs and getting to know the pitchers, communicating with those guys, making sure I’m comfortable with them,” Lucroy said. “I’ve always said I try to be a well-rounded catcher. I don’t want to be an offensive-minded guy, I don’t want to be strictly defensive guy. I want to be both. The great ones are.”
Not long after exiting Saturday’s game, Lucroy sat alone in a room full of computers, watching video.
“Just familiarizing yourself, being on top of things,” he said. “That way when we go into opening day, I can be as prepared as I possibly can be to help this team win.”
Lucroy was scheduled to get Sunday off and won’t play two games in a row until a later time. Manager Bob Melvin said he will catch in Monday night’s game against the Los Angeles Dodgers.
“As far as the at-bats go, we’re OK there. It’s just incrementally getting him into the catching process,” Melvin said. “Some of these guys that signed late end up getting hurt pretty quickly. We don’t want that.”