White Sox' Jonathan Lucroy hoping for keys to 'Lamborghini' pitching staff

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Vinnie Duber
·4 min read
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Lucroy hoping for keys to Sox 'Lamborghini' pitching staff originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

Jonathan Lucroy is coming to White Sox camp on a minor league deal. He's got a shot to make the team. But according to the 34-year-old veteran — and two-time All Star — his job isn't to wow Tony La Russa and the team's decision-makers or outshine Zack Collins and Yermín Mercedes at the plate.

"I'm just going to go out and do my best, try to play as good as I can to make the team and help these pitchers get better and perform to the peak of their ability," Lucroy said Thursday. "That's it."

And that right there might give him the edge in earning the job of backing up Yasmani Grandal.

RELATED: How Lucroy fits in Sox spring training backup-catcher battle

See, Collins and Mercedes can both hit. There's little doubting that after both have impressed with the bat in the minor leagues. But defensive questions persist. And entering a 2021 season in which the White Sox are eyeing a World Series run, dependability has been the name of the game. Who knows what the spring holds, but Lucroy might wind up the more dependable option when it comes to handling the pitching staff one out of every five days.

And much like Grandal raved about the White Sox pitching staff when he came aboard an offseason ago, Lucroy is equally impressed. And when Grandal signed, that staff didn't yet boast Dallas Keuchel and Lance Lynn, the fifth- and sixth-place finishers in the 2020 American League Cy Young vote.

"Game-calling, to me, is the most important skill to have behind the plate," Lucroy said as part of a response to a question about pitch-framing, "especially when you have a Lamborghini pitching staff like we've got.

"We've got to know how to drive a Lamborghini. If we don't know how to drive a Lamborghini, it's not going to work well."

Lucroy played in just one game last season and didn't get an at-bat. As he pointed out during his chat with reporters Thursday, his offensive numbers have dipped and continued to dip since his last All-Star season in 2016, citing a neck injury that he had addressed prior to last season. But he's kept catching during that time and brings a veteran knowhow the likes of which the White Sox have prioritized adding to a young roster this winter.

Lucroy is also a familiar face to La Russa, who managed against Lucroy when the two were rivals in the NL Central. He's even more familiar to newly added assistant coach Jerry Narron, who spent five years as the Milwaukee Brewers bench coach when Lucroy played there.

But the familiarity doesn't stop there. Lucroy caught new White Sox closer Liam Hendriks when the two were with the Oakland Athletics. And he's faced off against Keuchel and Lynn enough that he "know(s) exactly what they are trying to do."

So back to Lucroy's job.

"I have to get these guys locked in, I have to get them right. We all have to as catchers," he said. "I think that’s going to be a big part of all we are doing as a catching unit to get these guys right, is just working with them.

"I’m going to do my best to learn their personalities. That’s going to be one big thing I do. The personality thing is something that is extremely important and a lot of people don’t understand it. Pitchers react to things differently, they react to different stimuli. Some guys you have to hold their hand, some guys you have to get on them, some guys it’s the way you speak to them, some guys you have to motivate them. There’s just different ways to approach them to get the best out of them."

A Lamborghini needs a capable driver, as Lucroy mentioned, and the White Sox are fortunate to have one of the best in Grandal.

Lucroy's been a big league catcher for more than a decade. And he might wind up the perfect backup to Grandal, the perfect guy to borrow the keys to the Lamborghini.

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