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Lucroy has been stabilizing force behind plate

Veteran catcher has helped young rotation while also producing offensively
Special to MLB.com

OAKLAND, Calif. -- Jonathan Lucroy's first season in an Athletics uniform has provided a number of highs and lows for the veteran catcher, yet there's no denying that his fingerprints are all over the ball club.

From a three-hit showing that got somewhat overlooked in Lucroy's 1,000th career game Friday to his steady and calming work behind the plate with Oakland's injury-riddled pitching staff all season, the two-time All-Star has made a definite impact on a team filled with most players in their early 20s.

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OAKLAND, Calif. -- Jonathan Lucroy's first season in an Athletics uniform has provided a number of highs and lows for the veteran catcher, yet there's no denying that his fingerprints are all over the ball club.

From a three-hit showing that got somewhat overlooked in Lucroy's 1,000th career game Friday to his steady and calming work behind the plate with Oakland's injury-riddled pitching staff all season, the two-time All-Star has made a definite impact on a team filled with most players in their early 20s.

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"He's the first experienced guy we've had since Stephen [Vogt]," said manager Bob Melvin, referring to the popular former A's catcher who played in Oakland from 2013-17 before being designated for assignment last June and claimed off waivers by Milwaukee. "It shows up right away. He's played in both leagues. He takes pride in being a true catcher that's in there for the pitcher and the pitchers appreciate that, and I think they rely on him a little more as far as the pitch-calling goes."

Lucroy wasn't in the starting lineup Saturday but carried a .284 batting average into the day that was third-best on the A's behind Majors hits leader Jed Lowrie and ever-improving Mark Canha. That was after a slow start in which Oakland's primary catcher opened the season batting .239 with one RBI over the team's first 13 games.

The A's have had plenty of offensive production up and down their lineup this season so at times it's been easy to overlook Lucroy's production there.

Defensively, however, it's a little bit of a different story.

Video: OAK@HOU: Lucroy ties game in the 7th with RBI single

While Lucroy has allowed 18 stolen bases this season (most in the Majors), he has thrown out seven baserunners which were the second-most in the Majors after Friday. Dating back to 2010, Lucroy has thrown out 184 runners, the most during that span.

More critical for Melvin and the A's, Lucroy has been a stabilizing force for Oakland's pitchers.

The A's had to jumble their rotation after losing Jharel Cotton to Tommy John surgery and Paul Blackburn to forearm tightness in the spring. Opening Day starter Kendall Graveman was also optioned down to Triple-A Nashville after a rough start to the season.

That, in turn, put the spotlight on some of Oakland's other pitchers who have benefited greatly from having Lucroy behind the plate. Daniel Mengden, for example, had two of his best outings this season against the Chicago White Sox and Baltimore Orioles with Lucroy as his catcher. The right-hander also had a terrific start against Boston when Bruce Maxwell was the A's catcher.

Maxwell is a left-handed hitter so it made sense to start him against Orioles right-hander Kevin Gausman but Melvin said that wasn't the determining factor, as Lucroy has started numerous games this season with righties on the mound.

"In this case we wanted to give Luke a day off on the night game and play him in the day game [Sunday]," Melvin said. "He brings a lot of energy in the day games and it's not fair for Maxie just to be that Sunday at 1 football-type player."

Michael Wagaman is a contributor to MLB.com based in the Bay Area.

Oakland Athletics, Jonathan Lucroy