2 games in, Lucroy doing what he does best

April 7th, 2021

WASHINGTON -- had seen this before on the big screen.

“You know the movie ‘The Replacements,’ with Keanu Reeves as the quarterback?” Lucroy said Tuesday night, shortly after catching nine innings of the Nationals’ walk-off, season-opening, 6-5 win against the Braves. “Shane Falco -- that's what I kind of feel like out there. It's funny, but it's fun. I mean, look, I get to play baseball.”

With starting and backup catchers and on the injured list, the Nationals were in need of a veteran to man the backstop in the interim. Lucroy, 34, had been released by the White Sox after Spring Training, and he was eager to find somewhere to play his 12th season. The Nats signed Lucroy over the weekend and added him to their 26-man roster for Opening Day.

“He’s such a positive guy,” manager Dave Martinez said. “He understands the situation. He just said, ‘Hey, I’m ready. When you put me in, I’ll be ready. I know why I’m here.’ I told him, ‘Just be you and do what you do best.’”

Lucroy’s first task: catch without ever having played with him. Phone numbers were exchanged, conversations were had and scouting reports were studied. Lucroy had been traded midseason twice in his career, and he was used to getting acclimated with a staff on short notice.

“Obviously, the first time you catch somebody, it's going to be a little weird, feeling each other out,” Lucroy said. “It's like a relationship. It's like a marriage sometimes with pitchers. You have to be able to talk to them and figure out how you work. ... We got on a roll there in the last innings he threw.”

Not only did Lucroy catch the first game of the season, he plated the Nats’ first runs of 2021. He hadn’t faced live hitting in a week, and when he spotted a curveball from Braves starter Drew Smyly in the second inning, he doubled it into left field to drive in and . It was Lucroy's first hit since the '19 season.

"I was 100 percent focused on this, I wasn't thinking about anything else,” Lucroy said. “You're just trying to be as consistent as you can, no matter what.”

Lucroy was back on the field Wednesday afternoon to catch in Game 1 of the Nationals’ doubleheader against the Braves. It is uncertain when Gomes or Avila will come off the injured list, so Lucroy is focusing on the here and now.

“I feel like a mercenary, kind of,” Lucroy said, adding, “Whatever happens is going to happen, and I'm OK with it. These guys, they've got to do what they've got to do, and they've got a special clubhouse. So I'm just happy to be a small part of it right now."

Doubleheader roster move
The Nationals named left-hander as the 27th man for their doubleheader. Brayer, Washington’s No. 21 prospect per MLB Pipeline, made three appearances last season, including his Major League debut. He was 1-0 with a 1.23 ERA in 2020.

Up next
Following Game 2 on Wednesday night, the Nats will have an off-day Thursday as they travel cross country to play the Dodgers in Los Angeles' home opener on Friday at 4:10 p.m. ET.