MILWAUKEE -- Having hit the reset button with three days off and two others as the Brewers' designated hitter, catcher Jonathan Lucroy will be back behind the plate on Friday at Miller Park to begin his stretch drive toward uncertainty. Will he still wear a Brewers uniform at the close
MILWAUKEE -- Having hit the reset button with three days off and two others as the Brewers' designated hitter, catcher Jonathan Lucroy will be back behind the plate on Friday at Miller Park to begin his stretch drive toward uncertainty. Will he still wear a Brewers uniform at the close of business on Aug. 1, the day of the non-waiver Trade Deadline? Or will the trade rumors that have swirled around Lucroy for months finally carry him elsewhere?
"I learned a lesson this offseason," Lucroy said this week in an empty dugout at the Oakland Coliseum. "It was kind of an emotional roller coaster, because I heard I was being traded every other week to a different team; my agent would tell me he heard something, I would read something online and you don't know what's true and what's false.
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"That was the first time I've ever gone through it, and I didn't know how to react or respond to it. Now, having gone through it and recognizing that all of that stuff is out of your control, I know there's no sense in even thinking about it. All it is, is a distraction. You can't let that stuff get in your head."
Does Lucroy think he'll still be a Brewer when his head hits the pillow on Aug. 1?
"I don't know," Lucroy said. "I really don't know."
At the moment, Brewers general manager David Stearns probably does not know, either. But Stearns' primary objective since taking over in October is to "acquire, develop and retain young, controllable talent across all levels of the organization" -- it says so right there in paragraph two of his media guide biography -- and Lucroy, arguably more than any other current Brewer, offers such an opportunity.
After a slump and injury-plagued 2015 season, Lucroy has returned to elite status this season. By most measures -- weighted runs created plus, weighted on-base average, wins above replacement -- he is one of baseball's three most productive catchers, alongside Washington's Wilson Ramos and Kansas City's Salvador Perez. Lucroy will enter Friday night's game against the Nationals batting .305 with an .873 on-base plus slugging percentage and 10 home runs, a pace better than his career year in 2014, when Lucroy finished fourth in National League MVP balloting.
"That's what you get when Luc is locked in," Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. "I think last year, the injuries made it a disjointed season, and he was never able to get into that stage where he was really locked in."
His resurgence is the result of his own hard work, Lucroy said, and of input from hitting coaches Darnell Coles and Jason Lane. They helped Lucroy make some subtle mechanical adjustments, including with the position of his hands, to be on time to "fire" when he swings the bat. They have also talked at length about Lucroy's mental approach.
Lucroy's breakthrough 2014, he suggests, was both a blessing and a curse.
"Anybody who does something really, really successfully, they want to repeat it and get better from there," Lucroy said. "I've never been a guy who is content with where I'm at. I always want to get better.
"I think that's good. But I also think that's bad sometimes, because you try to do too much."
Adding to his difficult 2015, Lucroy said in July that the Brewers had rejected his proposal for a long-term extension. The team preferred his current, club-friendly contract, which pays Lucroy $4 million in 2016 and includes a $5.25 million club option for 2017.
So, it was those personal on- and off-field factors, combined with the fact that the team had begun breaking down its roster and stockpiling prospects, that led Lucroy to express frustration last winter about devoting some of his prime seasons to rebuilding.
By Spring Training, Lucroy had tempered that stance, and he has not mentioned his reservations publicly since.
He looks like a hitter with a clear head.
"That's what I'm trying to be," Lucroy said. "To be successful, you have to have a clear mind and a clear approach to hitting. For me, I think that was one of the issues [last year]. I didn't have a clear head. I wasn't having success, and then I got frustrated.
"I'm not worried about [looming trade talks]. I saw my name everywhere last year, too. It's part of the game and I'm going to ignore all of it and try to play baseball."
Adam McCalvy has covered the Brewers for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy, like him on Facebook and listen to his podcast.