All the same, catcher Jonathan Lucroy has quietly brought a sense of stability to the Milwaukee Brewers.
Lucroy missed the first 10 games of last season with a broken right pinkie, but wound up starting 114 games and anchoring a pitching staff that carried Milwaukee to the NL Central Division championship.
For a team that hasn’t had the same starting catcher for more than two years since Jason Kendall in 2008 and 2009—and for more than three years since Mike Matheny, the St. Louis Cardinals new manager, in 1996-98—seeing Lucroy ready for this season is good news. Especially for the pitching staff.
“It gives them a sense of security, knowing who they are working with, knowing they don’t have to show a guy what they do or anything like that,” Lucroy said. “I already know what they are capable of and what their ability is, all their pitches, their mindset and their game plan.”
All five starters finished with double-digit wins, thanks to Lucroy and reserve catcher George Kottaras.
Lucroy, a third-round pick in 2007, caught Yovani Gallardo (17-10), Greinke (16-6), Shaun Marcum (13-7)and left-hander Chris Narveson (11-8). Kottaras made 22 of his 31 starts when leftie Randy Wolf (13-10) pitched.
Gallardo not only posted the most wins of his career, but joined Greinke as the first pair of Brewers teammates to record at least 200 strikeouts in the same season. Gallardo fanned 207 and Greinke 201. Greinke and Marcum both tied career-highs in victories.
The Brewers return the same starting rotation for the first time in recent history. And Lucroy couldn’t be happier about that.
“I’m really familiar with all five of them,” he said. “George knows Wolf and the other guys. The combination of us two knowing all the starters primarily and the relievers for that matter means we don’t have to get to know each other. We can hit it running right out of the box.”
One change, though, is that Brewers manager Ron Roenicke wants to see if he can get Wolf and Lucroy to work together. The two are using spring training to see if they can get on the same page.
“I talked to Randy about it,” Roenicke said. “Maybe a couple of times early, we’ll see how it goes. There’s going to be a time when it’s not going to always be George. So, whether Randy goes and pitches for somebody else or George is hurt, I don’t want Lucroy to all of a sudden have to catch Randy during the season in important ball games, and he’s never done it.”
Greinke, the AL Cy Young Award winner in 2009, enjoyed the benefits of having the same catcher while he was with the Kansas City Royals. Before coming to Milwaukee in 2011 in a trade with the Royals, he threw to John Buck for three seasons and one each to Miguel Olivo and Kendall.
“We had a veteran pitching staff, which makes it easier,” Greinke said. “But, if you have a young pitching staff and a young catcher, that’s a recipe for disaster. When you get to know guys, the longer you’re with the same people, it’s probably better.”