The Milwaukee Brewers have had more than their share of injuries to key players in 2012. One of the injured is catcher Jonathan Lucroy, who went on the disabled list with a broken hand back at the end of May. Before he went down, Lucroy was having a breakout year with a .345 batting average, five homers, and 30 RBIs in 43 games. He was also hitting .514 with runners in scoring position, including three for three with a home run and nine RBIs with the bases loaded. Needless to say, Lucroy's offensive production has been missed, although Martin Maldonado has done very well filling in since being recalled from Triple A Nashville.
Fortunately, Lucroy has been recovering well, and played in his first minor league rehab game on July 19th for the Class A Wisconsin Timber Rattlers. He was two for three at the plate with a single and a double. He did commit one throwing error on a throw to second on a stolen base attempt. I'll remain optimistic and chalk it up to the fact he hasn't had to make that throw in a game situation in nearly two months and that it's not a lingering injury issue.
Lucroy is slated for at least a week of minor league games, both with the Timber Rattlers and at Nashville before returning to the Brewers. The Brewers will then have to make a decision as to who the backup catcher will be, as it is highly unlikely they'll keep both Maldonado and George Kottaras .
In my view, Maldonado has earned the job. He is a better player defensively, and has shown he can hit Major League pitching. In 43 games, Maldonado is hitting .273 with five homers and 18 RBIs. Kottaras was hitting .310 with three homers and nine RBIs on May 9th, but has added just three RBIs since then while his average has dropped to .220. Assuming there are no setbacks, Lucroy will be activated a few days before the July 31st trading deadline, making Kottaras available for a trade.
Lucroy's return also opens up some interesting possibilities in the batting order. He had been hitting fifth at the time of his injury, giving the Brewers a 3-4-5 order of Ryan Braun, Aramis Ramirez, and Lucroy. At that time, Corey Hart was batting leadoff and playing right field. Now, Hart has been getting most of his starts at first base and has been batting fifth with Norichika Aoki playing right and batting leadoff. With that in mind, the Brewers may decide keep Aoki and Hart where they are and go with Lucroy in the number six position. Another option they might want to consider is to have Lucroy bat second and drop the underperforming platoon of Carlos Gomez and Nyjer Morgan down lower in the order.
A Featured Contributor in Sports for the Yahoo! Contributor Network, Mark Hudziak has been a fan of the Brewers since they moved to Milwaukee in 1970.
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