Jonathan Lucroy’s eighth MLB season has been a trying one.
The veteran catcher’s .242 batting average is 38 points lower than his career average of .280, and his slugging percentage (.338) is nearly 100 points beneath the mark he’s posted in his total time in the big leagues (.433). But Lucroy was granted a fresh start of sorts when he was traded from the Texas Rangers to the Colorado Rockies over the weekend.
“It feels good,” Lucroy said Tuesday. “Like a breath of fresh air. Even if the air is a little thinner.”
The Rockies are hoping that air helps Lucroy bust out of his funk and produce offense at a position that’s done little at the plate for Colorado this season. Rockies catchers are hitting a collective .232 and slugging .310, which is the second-worst mark in the league. Rockies catchers have driven in a grand total of 33 runs.
If he gets going, Lucroy could help balance out a lineup that has too often looked top heavy. But that’s a big if. Lucroy is making hard contact on 22.3 percent of batted baseballs this season, according to FanGraphs, after never posting a hard-hit ball rate below 34 percent in the five seasons prior.
“Coming over here, you’re jumping into a new lineup,” Lucroy said. “You’re jumping into a good hitting park. You’re jumping into a division I’m very familiar with from a hitting standpoint.”
Lucroy is also familiar with many of the people inside the Rockies’ locker room. He played with Ian Desmond in Texas in 2016 and Gerardo Parra for two seasons in Milwaukee, and was a member of the Team USA World Baseball Classic team this summer alongside Nolan Arenado and Jake McGee.
The Rangers acquired Lucroy at the trade deadline in August 2016. Texas won the A.L. West before falling to the Blue Jays in the ALCS.
For the second season in a row, Lucroy joins a new team that’s trying to secure a playoff spot. The Rockies hold a 5 1/2 game lead over the Brewers for the final Wild Card position in the National League.
“This deal came about because we feel like we were able to get a veteran catcher who’s battle tested, who’s been into Augusts and Septembers with other teams in pennant races,” Rockies manager Bud Black said. “We feel like he can help us. Going with our young starters like we are, we feel like there’s a comfort in that for all of us.”
Lucroy, who was acquired for a player later to be named, and Pat Neshek, the righty reliever Colorado got for a trio of prospects last week, will serve as reinforcements for a Rockies club that’s trying to qualify for the postseason for the first time since 2009.
Neshek, who came over from Philadelphia, has already debuted for his new team, pitching 1 2/3 innings across two outings in Colorado’s series win over the Nationals. Lucroy should see his first action as a Rockie later this week. He was listed in the starting lineup Tuesday but scratched about an hour before the game with a stomach illness.
“I love Denver,” Lucroy said, despite not feeling 100 percent. “Every time I’ve been here as a visiting player, I’ve enjoyed the experience. People ask me about it, and I say that the Rockies have the best bullpen in baseball. It’s like a national park. It’s one of the few bullpens I actually enjoy sitting in. So pretty cool.”
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