Red Sox’ Jonathan Lucroy Continues to Impress at Summer Camp

Veteran backstop Jonathan Lucroy has been with the Red Sox for less than five months. He signed a minor-league deal with the club back in February, put up solid numbers in 12 Grapefruit League games, and then the COVID-induced shutdown happened.

During that layoff, the 34-year-old stayed busy and got acquainted with a few of his new Red Sox teammates – Ryan Brasier, Colten Brewer, and Brandon Workman – at a facility in Dallas. There, Lucroy, a native of Florida, caught bullpens for the trio of Texans frequently, thus potentially forging a stronger relationship with those Red Sox relievers.

When the Sox announced their initial 47-man player pool for the start of Summer Camp, Lucroy was not included on said roster, which raised some eyebrows considering how well he looked earlier in the year.

It turns out that the reason Lucroy was not originally included in Boston’s Summer Camp pool was due to contract-related issues. That dilemma did not last too long, obviously, as the two-time All-Star was added to the Sox’ Summer Camp player pool as a non-roster invitee on July 2.

Since then, Lucroy has picked up from where he left off in Fort Myers and continues to prove that when healthy, he can contribute.

You see, one of the reasons Lucroy had to take a minor-league deal this year was because of how poorly he had played the previous three seasons.

Over that span, in 315 games between the Rangers, Rockies, Athletics, Angels and Cubs, the former third-round draft pick has posted a wRC+ of 76 and an fWAR of 0.2, ranking 17th and 19th among 19 qualified big-league catchers.

One of the main reasons for those struggles were injuries. Between a herniated disc in his neck that has been a bother the last three years and a concussion-broken nose combo suffered in a home plate collision with Jake Marisnick last summer, Lucroy, as he puts it, has “played in pain.”

Now, following an offseason procedure to replace the aforementioned herniated disc in his neck with a metal facsimile, Lucroy is feeling much better health-wise. He showed that during the initial version of spring training, and he’s showing it again at Summer Camp.

Through the Sox’ first two intrasquad games at Fenway Park, Lucroy has racked up four hits while also catching a handful of innings behind the plate. If all goes according to plan, he’ll likely be the third catcher on Boston’s Opening Day, 30-man roster alongside Christian Vazquez and Kevin Plawecki.

“I do feel really, really good,” Lucroy said Friday. “I do feel like I can compete at a very high level and be consistent. I’m grateful for the opportunity to be here and have a chance to do that.”

Red Sox Add Jonathan Lucroy to Summer Camp Player Pool

The Red Sox have added veteran catcher Jonathan Lucroy to their player pool for the resumption of MLB spring training, or Summer Camp, as a non-roster invitee. The club announced the transaction earlier Thursday.

With the addition of Lucroy, the Red Sox now have 48 out of a possible 60 players in their Summer Camp Pool. 11 of those players, which now includes Lucroy, are non-roster invitees.

Lucroy, who turned 34 last month, originally inked a minor-league deal with Boston back in February and looked to compete with Kevin Plawecki for the backup catcher spot before the COVID-19 pandemic shut spring training down in March.

Since that time, the Florida native was not added to the Sox’ initial 47-player roster pool this past Sunday, but that was only for procedural reasons. More specifically, according to The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier, there were “issues related to [an] opt-out to work through” before the Red Sox could add him to the pool.

Those issues have since been worked out, however, and now Lucroy represents the sixth catcher to be added to the Sox’ Summer Camp roster pool. Other backstops who will participate include Christian Vazquez, Kevin Plawecki, Jett Bandy, Juan Centeno, and Connor Wong.

With all MLB clubs allowed to have 30 players on their active roster to begin the 2020 season later this month, teams will likely take advantage of that and carry three catchers to start things out. That being said, Vazquez, Plawecki, and Lucroy are all likely locks to make Boston’s Opening Day roster.

On This Day in Red Sox History: Luis Tiant Signs With Boston

On this day in 1971, the Red Sox signed free-agent right-hander Luis Tiant to a minor-league contract.

Tiant, 30 at the time, had just been released by the Braves two days earlier after Atlanta refused to promote him to the majors.

The beginning of the 1971 campaign was eventful for Tiant. He had been diagnosed with a crack in a bone in his right shoulder the year prior and missed ten weeks of the 1970 season because of it.

Entering 1971 as a member of the Twins organization, Tiant missed two weeks of spring training due to a pulled muscle in his rib cage and was subsequently released by Minnesota in late March.

As previously mentioned, the Braves picked the veteran righty up on what was then called a 30-day trial contract with their Triple-A affiliate in Richmond.

That experiment did not work out however, as Atlanta eventually cut Tiant loose on May 15th. He was on the open market for just two days before the Red Sox acquired his services on the 17th.

Tiant’s Red Sox tenure began in Louisville home of the Sox’ Triple-A affilate at the time,, where he posted a 2.61 ERA over 31 innings of work, which was good enough to earn him a call up to Boston on June 3rd.

The Cuba national’s first major-league experience with the Sox did not go so well as he went just 1-7 with a 4.85 ERA over 21 appearances (10 starts) and 72 1/3 innings of work in ’71.

Fortunately though, El Tiante would wind up being one of the better starting pitchers of the decade in his time with the Red Sox.

From 1972 until 1978, Tiant owned an ERA of 3.30, an ERA+ of 121, and a FIP of 3.50 over 253 outings (228 starts) and 1,702 1/3 total innings pitched. Per FanGraphs, he was the 14th-most valuable starting pitcher in baseball during that time period in terms of fWAR (28.0) while compiling two All-Star appearances and three top-six finishes in American League Cy Young voting.

In his lone postseason action with Boston in 1975, the Red Sox won all four games Tiant started in against the Athletics and Reds, although they did go on to fall to Cincinnati in the World Series that year.

Following the 1978 season, Tiant inked a two-year deal with the Yankees and went on to also pitch for the Pirates and Angels before calling it quits in 1982.

Inducted into the Red Sox Hall of Fame in 1997, Tiant currently serves as a special assignment instructor for the club.

 

That Time Justin Turner Nearly Signed Minor-League Deal With Red Sox

Justin Turner has been one of the best third basemen in the National League since joining the Dodgers in 2014.

Over the past six seasons, the 35-year-old owns a slash line of .302/.381/.506 with 112 home runs. 383 RBI, one All-Star nod, and three top-15 finishes in NL MVP voting.

As impressive as those numbers may be, Turner’s rise to stardom was far from expected prior to signing with Los Angeles.

A former seventh-round draft pick of the Reds in 2006 out of Cal State Fullerton, Turner’s stay in Cincinnati’s farm system did not last long, as he was part of the trade that sent veteran catcher Ramon Hernandez from Baltimore to the Reds in December 2008.

Making his major-league debut with the Orioles the following September, in a game against the Red Sox, Turner went 0-for-2 with a strikeout and did not do much in a limited role the remainder of the 2009 season.

The 2010 campaign marked a period of turbulence for Turner. He was called up and sent down by the Orioles on three separate occasions before being designated for assignment on May 21st of that year.

Four days later, the Long Beach native found himself a member of the New York Mets after the club had claimed him off waivers, and he reported to Triple-A Buffalo.

Turner got his first real crack with New York in April 2011, and he emerged as a solid utility player who could come off the bench and play multiple positions around the infield.

In terms of bWAR, Turner’s 2012 season was just about identical to what he did in 2011, albeit in 23 fewer games. His 2013 season, in which he was limited to 86 games due to a hamstring injury, was even better using that same metric, but the Mets made the ultimate decision to non-tender the infielder that December rather than pay him the $800,000 he was projected to earn in 2014.

“Don’t assume every non-tender is a function of money,” ex-Mets general manager Sandy Alderson said at the time when asked about Turner being released by New York. Apparently, there were reports that Mets brass questioned Turner’s motivation and lack of hustle.

Despite those reports, Turner was a coveted minor-league free agent in the months following his release. The Red Sox were one of those teams that were interested in his services.

Per WEEI’s John Tomase, who now covers the Red Sox for NBC Sports Boston, former Sox general manager Ben Cherington made a “hard push” to land Turner, and the two sides nearly agreed to a deal. That is, until the Dodgers and Ned Coletti came calling.

“I had to make a decision by midnight or the next morning and the Dodgers called that night,” Turner told Tomase prior to the start of the 2018 World Series. “At the time, it was between the Red Sox and the Twins. Obviously Boston was a world class organization with a lot of good young players and a general manager that expressed his interest in really wanting me to be here. There were a lot of good things coming out of it. I was honestly getting excited about it and looking forward to it.”

With that excitement for Turner also came concern in how the Red Sox utilized their role players under then-manager John Farrell. The Dodgers, meanwhile, showed more of a willingness to use bench players, as would be expected from most National League clubs.

“One of the deciding factors between Boston and L.A., Don Mattingly used his bench players a lot,” Turner said. “You look at Nick Punto and Skip Schumaker and Michael Young all having 300 at-bats the season before as utility players. And then you look at the Boston bench guys having 70 at-bats, 80 at-bats.”

The opportunity to play more, as well as the chance to remain in the National League, ultimately won Turner over, and he inked a minor-league pact with the Dodgers that February.

““Going into free agency that year, my main goal was to stay in the National League for the opportunity to be a utility guy and still get to play,” he said. “So when the Dodgers came into the picture, that kind of answered the question for me, made it not as difficult a choice, although I was excited and looking forward to possibly being a Red Sox.”

As previously mentioned, Turner went onto blossom into a star third baseman with Los Angeles and is now entering the final year of the four-year, $64 million extension he signed in December 2016.

Having failed to sign Turner in 2014, Cherington went out and made a big splash later that same calendar year by bringing in free-agent third baseman Pablo Sandoval on a five-year, $95 million contract.

Sandoval flopped with Boston, and was ultimately designated for assignment and later released on July 19th of the 2017 season. At that same time, Turner was fresh off making his first career All-Star team.

The Red Sox have since found their third baseman of the future in the form of 23-year-old Rafael Devers, but it’s still interesting to look back and wonder what ripple effects signing Turner could have had on the club in 2020 and beyond.

 

Red Sox Sign Former Cardinals Utilityman Yairo Muñoz to Minor-League Deal

The Red Sox have signed former Cardinals utilityman Yairo Munoz to a minor-league deal, according to Major League Baseball’s official transaction wire. He was assigned to Triple-A Pawtucket on Wednesday.

Munoz, 25, was released by St. Louis earlier this month after he “left the team” and “flew home” without ever contacting the Cardinals. His agent apparently told the club that his client was frustrated with his role, something Cards manager Mike Shildt said on multiple occasions last season.

According to The Athletic’s Mark Saxon, that frustration did not hamper Munoz’s chances of making the Cardinals’ Opening Day roster this year, as Shildt told him that the Dominican Republic native had an “inside track” to landing a roster spot.

That vote of confidence did not stop Munoz from receiving his unconditional release from St. Louis though, and less than three full weeks after essentially excusing himself from the Cardinals, he has joined the Red Sox on a minor-league deal for the 2020 season.

Originally signed by the Athletics as an international free agent out of the DR back in 2012, Munoz was part of the trade that sent outfielder Stephen Piscotty to Oakland in December 2017.

The former top prospect is capable of playing second base, third base, and shortstop, as well as all three outfield positions. That sort of versatility is something the Red Sox have seemed to value immensely lately.

In 88 games with the Cardinals last season, Munoz slashed .267/.298/.355 with two home runs and 13 RBI. That rather underwhelming performance for Munoz was coming off an impressive rookie campaign where he posted an OPS+ of 109 over 108 games in 2018.

Munoz still has five years of team control remaining and is not arbitration eligible until the 2021 season.

If baseball is played in 2020, Munoz could provide the Red Sox with solid infield and maybe even outfield depth at the Triple-A level.

New Red Sox Catcher Jonathan Lucroy: ‘I Feel a Lot Better Than I Have in a Long Time’

New Red Sox catcher Jonathan Lucroy is entering uncharted territory as he enters his 13th season in professional baseball. That being a veteran on a minor-league deal when just a few years ago you could argue he was one of the top catchers in the game.

When speaking to reporters at JetBlue Park for the first time on Thursday, the 33-year-old backstop did not make light of how he ended up in his current predicament.

“It’s a little strange,” Lucroy said on attending big league camp as a non-roster invite. “This is the first time I have had to do this. But, it’s OK. It’s just a part of the business side of baseball. Honestly, it’s what I deserve. I haven’t played good. So, it’s kind of where we’re at. You make your bed, you got to sleep in it. It’s just something I have to deal with and that’s OK. It’s a part of life.”

Spending last season with the Angels and Cubs, Lucroy posted an unimpressive .232/.305/.355 slash line to go along with eight home runs and 36 RBI over 101 total games played. He also ranked as one of the worst defensive catchers who caught at least 500 innings, according to FanGraphs.

The Florida native did miss time last year due to a broken nose and concussion, and he underwent major neck surgery earlier in the offseason to replace a cervical disc that he discussed in detail on Thursday.

“I had a herniated disc in my neck the past three years,” said Lucroy. “I’d like to sit here and make excuses to say that was the reason I haven’t played good, but I’m not going to. It did effect me, but I got it taken care of and I feel a lot better than I have in a long time.”

Going back to his days with the Brewers, Lucroy does have some familiarity with Red Sox interim manager Ron Roenicke, who served as Lucroy’s skipper from 2011 until May 2015.

“I’ve known Ron for a long time,” Lucroy said. “We had a lot of good times together. He’s a really good guy, a really good manager. He’s a quality pickup for the Red Sox. Speaking from experience with him, he’s a huge positive for the Red Sox for sure.”

Lucroy also said that before signing with Boston, he received a call from Roenicke to essentially recruit him.

“He called me and wanted me to come,” Lucroy said of Roenicke. “He was like ‘Look, you got an opportunity here. You come here and you got an opportunity to make a team’ and right now, that’s all you can ask for as a guy in my position.”

The two-time All-Star also mentioned how enticing it was to get the chance to work with Jason Varitek, as the former Sox captain “is very respected in the catching world.”

The road for Lucroy to break camp on Boston’s Opening Day roster is not an easy one, with the club already having former Mets and Indians backstop Kevin Plawecki on its 40-man roster and on a guaranteed deal for the 2020 season, albeit for only $900,000.

Lucroy did not sound all that concerned about playing time in the majors for the time being though, as he emphasized how he has to “make the team first and contribute where he can to help the [Red Sox] win.”

For someone who has the kind of résumé Lucroy does, you might think he would be one to feel disrespected by the notion of not receiving a major-league contract offer, but as previously mentioned, he was brutally honest about his recent performance over the last few years.

“Analytically, I’ve been terrible,” he said. “Seriously, I’m not trying to make excuses. So, I’m not surprised I didn’t get a big league offer. Not at all.”

If he is able to regain some of the form he put on display during the middle parts of the previous decade, Lucroy could be an intriguing addition to a Red Sox team that dealt Sandy Leon to the Indians back in December.

According to WEEI’s Rob Bradford, Lucroy would earn $1.5 million if he plays in the majors this season. He will be wearing the No. 12.

Red Sox Reportedly Add Jonathan Lucroy on Minor-League Deal

The Red Sox have reportedly agreed to a minor-league deal with free-agent catcher Jonathan Lucroy, according to MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo. The deal is pending a physical and includes an invite to major-league spring training.

Lucroy, 33, will join Jett Bandy and Juan Centeno as veteran backstops the Sox have added on minor-league pacts this offseason.

The two-time All-Star slashed .232/.305/.355 with eight home runs and 36 RBI over 101 total games between the Angels and Cubs last year.

Per MLB Network’s Jon Heyman, Lucroy underwent major neck surgery earlier in the offseason to replace a cervical disc that had been bothering him for ‘a couple years.’

Back in July, when he was with the Angels, Lucroy was left with a concussion and broken nose and had to be taken to a local hospital after colliding with then-Astros outfielder Jake Marisnick at home plate in Houston. He was sidelined for a little more than three weeks because of it.

A former third-round pick of the Brewers back in 2007, Lucroy should have some familiarity with the Red Sox already, as interim manager Ron Roenicke was his manager in Milwaukee from the start of the 2011 season until May 2015.

Lucroy also has some experience as a first baseman, and is expected to report to Fenway South on Wednesday for his physical, according to The Boston Globe’s Pete Abraham.

 

Red Sox Bring Back Jaun Centeno on Minor-League Deal

The Red Sox have brought back veteran catcher Juan Centeno on a minor-league contract for the 2020 season, according to MLB Network’s Jon Heyman. The deal includes an invitation to major-league spring training.

Centeno, 30, appeared in just seven games for Boston last year after being called up at the beginning of September when rosters expanded. In those seven contests, the Puerto Rico native went 2-for-15 (.133) with two walks and two RBI while catching 34 innings behind the plate, per FanGraphs.

While with Triple-A Pawtucket last season, Centeno slashed .248/.321/.350 with four home runs and 40 RBI over 81 games played.

In Centeno, the Red Sox have acquired additional catching depth to supplement fellow veteran backstop Jett Bandy, who was brought in on a similar minor-league deal last month. Those two will more than likely compete for a starting role with the PawSox once pitchers and catchers report to Fort Myers in February.

And since Bandy and Centeno are both out of minor-league options, they will have to be exposed to waivers if the Red Sox plan on bringing either of them up and sending them back down at any point this season.

Red Sox Agree to Minor-League Deal With Reliever Trevor Hildenberger

The Red Sox have reportedly signed right-handed reliever Trevor Hildenberger to a minor-league contract, according to KSTOR North’s Darren Wolfson. The deal includes an invite to major-league spring training.

Hildenberger, 29, appeared in 22 games for the Minnesota Twins last season, posting a 10.47 ERA and 5.28 xFIP over 16 1/3 innings of relief while bouncing around between the majors and Triple-A Rochester.

Once touted as one of the more impressive relief pitching prospects in the Twins’ system, the former 2014 22nd round pick got his big league career off to a roaring start, allowing a total of 15 runs over his first 37 outings and 42 frames pitched upon his first call up in June 2017.

Things have not worked out in Hildenberger’s favor since then though, which ultimately led to Minnesota non-tendering the California native last month at a point where he was not yet eligible for salary arbitration.

Per Statcast, Hildenberger relies mostly on a changeup and sinker while having a slider and four-seam fastball to turn to as well.

Come the beginning of spring training, Hildenberger should have a chance to compete for a spot in Boston’s bullpen where he would earn $700,000. And if he does not make it to the majors by August 15th, he can opt out of his deal, per MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo.

 

Former Red Sox Catcher Blake Swihart Signs Minor-League Deal With Rangers

Former Red Sox catcher Blake Swihart has signed a minor-league deal with the Texas Rangers, per the club’s executive vice president of communications John Blake. The contract also includes an invite to major-league spring training.

Swihart opened the 2019 season with Boston, where he was the team’s second catcher behind Christian Vazquez up until April 16th.

At that point in time, the Sox sported a record of 6-11 and owned the third-worst team ERA in the American League at 5.93.

Offensively speaking, Swihart was not lighting the world on fire, as he was slashing .231/.310/.385 with one home run and four RBI through his first 12 games.

Given the struggles all the way around, as well as the fact that Sandy Leon was stashed away in Triple-A Pawtucket, Dave Dombrowski and Co. made the decision to go with Leon over Swihart from that point forward, ultimately designating the latter for assignment on the 16th and trading him to the Arizona Diamondbacks three days later.

Out of that deal, Boston also parted ways with international amateur signing bonus pool space, but they also gained outfield prospect Marcus Wilson, who has worked his way up to become the 18th-ranked prospect in the Sox’ farm system.

Arizona, meanwhile, did not get much production out of Swihart following the completed trade, as the 27-year-old went on to slash .136/.186/.273 with three home runs and nine RBI over just 31 games due to two right oblique strain-related stints on the injured list.

Eventually designated again by old friend Mike Hazen on August 12th and spending the rest of the year at the Triple-A level, Swihart opted for free agency in late September.

It is not known if the Red Sox had any interest in a potential reunion with Swihart. Given how Vazquez is currently the only backstop on Boston’s 40-man roster, bringing back Swihart might not have been the worst idea.

Once committed to the University of Texas at Austin, Swihart will have the chance to compete for a role with a resurgent Rangers club come the spring. If he makes the team’s Opening Day roster, he’ll also have the chance to play in the same division as his longtime friend and Astros third baseman Alex Bregman, both of whom grew up in New Mexico.

This news comes a day after Swihart and his wife Shelby announced that they are expecting their first child together, so congratulations to them on that.