Red Sox’ Jonathan Lucroy Embracing ‘Dad’ Role While Working With Younger Players in Pawtucket

Upon signing a minor-league contract with the Red Sox back in February, veteran catcher Jonathan Lucroy looked to get his career back on track with a new club.

Initially, the 34-year-old took the first steps towards revitalizing his career when he was one of three backstops to make Boston’s Opening Day roster last month. However, Lucroy’s first stint with the Sox did not last all that long, as he was designated for assignment on July 29 after getting just one major-league at-bat and was subsequently outrighted to the club’s alternate training site in Pawtucket on August 1.

Since that time, Lucroy has been consistently working out at McCoy Stadium and is waiting for his chance to get back to the majors. Whether that is with the Red Sox or another club really does not matter.

“I cleared waivers, so there were no other teams that claimed me. That means no one wanted me,” he said during a Zoom call Friday. “That doesn’t mean that that can’t happen still. I’m here to continue to play games and continue to work to get better. If the Red Sox need me, I’ll be available. If another team needs me, then I’m sure we can figure something out where I can go play for them. It’s just a matter of opportunity and improving upon my game here. That’s all I’m worried about. I’m just happy to have a place to play and happy to have a place where I can work to improve.”

In the meantime, with all the knowledge and wisdom he has gained in 10-plus big-league seasons, Lucroy has embraced a mentorship role in Pawtucket while surrounded by younger players who eager to absorb as much information as possible.

“I try to leave myself open and I’ve told guys ‘Hey, I don’t want to smother anybody or try to force myself on people,'” said the veteran backstop. “I want them to come and ask me first. Like, if I see someone on the field I’ll say something to him once and leave it alone. But, I don’t want to go and just try and be all over them. They’ve been making fun of me, they call me ‘Dad’ in there. It’s just little things here and there. If guys want to come talk to me about anything, I’ll do my best to help them anyway I can.”

If for whatever reason the Red Sox find themselves in a position where Lucroy could get another crack of things in the majors this season, the two-time All-Star would again have to be added to Boston’s 40-man roster in order to make that happen.

 

Red Sox Should Consider Calling up Right-Handed Pitching Prospect Tanner Houck

On Tuesday, the Red Sox saw left-hander David Peterson make his major-league debut for the New York Mets. On Wednesday, if they’re paying attention, they’ll see right-hander Nate Pearson make his long-awaited major-league debut for the Toronto Blue Jays in Washington, D.C.

One thing Peterson and Pearson have in common, other than being two of the more touted pitching prospects in their respective organizations, is that they were both taken in the first round of the 2017 MLB Draft.

With that being said, it may be time to for the Red Sox to give their own 2017 first-round pick a look at the big-league level. Who might that be, you ask? Well, that would be none other than Tanner Houck.

Houck, 24, was taken by Boston with the 24th overall selection in the 2017 amateur draft out of the University of Missouri. Since then, he has emerged as the fourth-ranked right-handed pitching prospect in the Sox’ farm system behind only Bryan Mata, Noah Song, and Thad Ward, according to MLB Pipeline.

A former 12th-round draft pick of Toronto coming out of high school, Houck has yet to be added to the Sox’ 40-man roster, but he was added to the club’s 60-man player pool earlier this month and his since been working out at their alternate training site in Pawtucket, where he tossed two innings in an intrasquad game on Tuesday. (Houck pitching starts at around the 40:30 mark)

Per PawSox manager Billy McMillon, this was the first time Houck had faced live hitters since spring training in March.

“He looked like he was under control,” McMillon said of the 6-foot-5, 230 lb. righty. “He was not laboring. He mixed up his pitches. I think the emphasis for him is going to be controlling the strike zone a little bit better, particularly against lefties.”

SoxProspects’ scouting report for Houck says the Illinois native utilizes a 92-95 mph fastball that can top out at 98 mph, a 83-86 mph slider, and an 86-88 mph changeup, all while throwing from a low three-quarters arm slot.

In 16 appearances (two starts) with Triple-A Pawtucket after being promoted from Double-A Portland last July, Houck posted a 3.24 ERA and .209 batting average against over 25 innings of work. He spent parts of the offseason pitching in the Arizona Fall League and for Team USA in the Premier-12 tournament as well.

Given the current state the Red Sox pitching staff is in at the major-league level just five games into the new season, Houck could be a welcome addition as an opener or reliever seeing how he hasn’t exactly been stretched out to this point in time.

Calling up Houck now would also work out in the sense that he needs to be added to the Sox’ 40-man roster by late November in order to avoid being eligible for this year’s Rule 5 draft.

Of course, because Boston’s 40-man roster is currently at full capacity, a corresponding move would need to be made in order to get Houck to the majors this season.