Lucroy out for four weeks
Catcher Jonathan Lucroy broke his pinkie finger yesterday, necessitating surgery and the inserting of a pin. Recovery time has been set at four weeks, meaning Lucroy will be ready to play with just one week left in Spring Training. This likely means that he will start the season on the DL and spend some time in extended Spring Training to get his throwing and hitting up to season standards.
Lucroy’s injury means that the Brewers need a new Opening Day catcher. Free agent signee Wil Nieves, last year’s backup George Kottaras and former second-string catcher Mike Rivera will now be fighting for the two roster spots.
Kottaras seems to be the favorite to win the role of Lucroy’s backup as he held the position last season. He’s familiar with the staff and that comfort level can be key.
However, Kottaras is a pretty atrocious defensive catcher and is even worse at throwing guys out. That inability to keep guys from running on the bases should be a concern for Ron Roenicke. He threw out just 15% of runners and allowed 19 wild pitches in his limited starts.
Nieves spent the past two seasons as the backup catcher in Washington DC. Prior to the he spent time as a backup with the Yankees and was considered Mike Mussina’s personal catcher. That kind of experience could make him a solid competitor for the backup role in Milwaukee
While Kottaras struggles behind the plate, Nieves struggles in front of it. Last year with the Nationals he hit just .203 with 3 HR and 16 RBI in 59 games. Though Kottaras provided some pop with is bat, the focus should be on who provides the best defensive situation.
Mike Rivera was non-tendered after the 2009 season because he was arbitration eligible and the Brewers weren’t willing to pay for him. He spent time with three different clubs last season but didn’t really see any playing time. He is back with the Brewers 25 pounds lighter and hoping to earn a spot. He does, however, have minor league options left and could find himself in AAA Nashville.