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Maxwell fine to serve as A's reserve catcher

MLB.com @JaneMLB

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Reeling in a catcher of Jonathan Lucroy's caliber has earned the frugal A's widespread praise -- even from the man who was demoted because of it.

Bruce Maxwell, who handed over primary catching duties to accommodate the eight-year veteran Lucroy, has been relegated to a backup role. Not only that, but the A's have not yet guaranteed him an Opening Day roster spot.

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SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Reeling in a catcher of Jonathan Lucroy's caliber has earned the frugal A's widespread praise -- even from the man who was demoted because of it.

Bruce Maxwell, who handed over primary catching duties to accommodate the eight-year veteran Lucroy, has been relegated to a backup role. Not only that, but the A's have not yet guaranteed him an Opening Day roster spot.

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Maxwell, of course, is favored for one, being the only lefty-hitting catcher on the 40-man roster. The A's other options, Josh Phegley and Dustin Garneau, hit right-handed.

Maxwell is taking the transition in stride. He insists he doesn't feel slighted by the move, instead choosing to extract the many positives that Lucroy potentially provides.

"That's their decision, and I have no problem playing next to him, even downgrading my role," Maxwell said. "The guy's got experience that we all can learn from, he's got knowledge that we all can learn from. Here's a veteran to help me mold into the catcher that the A's want me to be down the road."

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That Maxwell even has a future with the A's is something he doesn't take for granted. Following a subpar rookie campaign, the 27-year-old was arrested in October for allegedly pointing a gun at a food-delivery worker outside of his home in Scottsdale, Ariz. He was reportedly intoxicated and made anti-police comments while being arrested, and he was later indicted by a grand jury on charges of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and disorderly conduct.

Maxwell is on the docket for a second settlement conference on April 13, and he hopes to reach a plea deal, but a pre-trial conference has been scheduled for Aug. 2 in the event that it doesn't happen, with his trial date set for Aug. 9. The A's have pledged their support for him throughout, and for that he's indebted.

"I had days, a lot of days, where I just kind of felt like the world was crumbling around me, but I never thought that it was within my own organization," Maxwell said. "[A's general manager] David Forst has made it public that they've supported me, and personally with everything collapsing around me, I had a thought or two that maybe they would part ways with me. That's not a good place to be. I got in a lot of dark places with some off-the-field pressure, but at the same time, this has always been home for me, and they went out of their way to reassure that I have full support from them.

Video: LAA@OAK: Maxwell leaves the game with apparent injury

"That's kept me on the straight and narrow, that kept me working my butt off this offseason and continuing to want to be a leader and a figure for this team."

Turbulent times -- beginning before his arrest when Maxwell became the only MLB player to kneel during the national anthem and subsequently received a slew of threats -- have afforded him perspective.

Maxwell isn't going to let a demotion shake him. He has enough on his plate. He also agrees that a step away from the spotlight, while Lucroy works to whip a young starting staff into shape, could be for the better.

"It gives me more time to be able to process things and learn things and be able to apply them at a little bit of a slower rate than I have been," Maxwell said. "I was thrown into the fire and had to learn on the fly, and if we're going to be a playoff-contending team here down the road, I need to use this time, honestly, to learn as much as I can. The progression and the success that I've had has gotten me to where I'm at, but also I feel like there's a lot of room for me to grow in all aspects behind the plate and at the plate."

Maxwell was brought aboard as the chief catcher when his mentor, fan favorite Stephen Vogt, was designated for assignment on June 22, 2017. From that point on, Maxwell hit .240 with three home runs and 22 RBIs in 67 games. Behind the plate, he worked well with the pitchers, but he also struggled with his blocking at times.

Video: Murphy enjoying experience with big leaguers at camp

The A's decision to stand by Maxwell despite ongoing legal issues stemmed not only from their belief in his continued development but in recognizing what little depth they had at the position. That's no longer an issue with Lucroy present, and even if his A's tenure concludes at season's end, the club has catching prospect Sean Murphy waiting in the wings, leaving much uncertainty surrounding Maxwell's future in more ways than one.

"At the end of the day, they don't know how my stuff's gonna go, how long it might take, and that's a big question mark," Maxwell said. "But while that's going on, I feel like Lucroy is the perfect guy to take over that everyday role so we do have some consistency behind the plate, whether I miss any time at all or not. I hope I don't. I want to make sure they know I'm here for this team and I'm always going to be here for this team."

Jane Lee has covered the A's for MLB.com since 2010. Follow her on Twitter @JaneMLB.

Oakland Athletics, Jonathan Lucroy, Bruce Maxwell, Sean Murphy