White Sox spring observations: Lucas Giolito thrilled with Jonathan Lucroy

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Vinnie Duber
·5 min read
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Sox spring observations: Giolito thrilled throwing to Lucroy originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

Perhaps there's too much being made out of the search for Lucas Giolito's next James McCann.

After all, the White Sox already have one of baseball's top catchers in Yasmani Grandal, and the staff ace told Our Chuck Garfien on the White Sox Talk Podcast that he's ready to form a new pitcher-catcher relationship like the one that sent both Giolito and McCann to the 2019 All-Star Game.

"It’s time to start to build that relationship with Yaz," Giolito said. "Yaz has had a kick-ass career, which he’s continuing to do, and he’s one of the best catchers in baseball. I’m very excited to be working with him. It’s only going to get better and better."

RELATED: Abreu: No doubt Sox top prospect Vaughn ready for bigs

But there's a new veteran backstop in White Sox camp this spring, and that's who Giolito threw to in his first Cactus League start Tuesday against the Texas Rangers. Paired with Jonathan Lucroy, Giolito looked in top form in his two innings of work, striking out four of the seven batters he faced.

"I felt fantastic throwing to Luc," Giolito said after the game. "I've been working with him the last couple weeks, live (batting practice), some bullpens. He's been extremely receptive to my notes, like, 'Hey, this is where I like the target, this is how I like the catcher positioned.'

"Going to a veteran catcher, sometimes it's like, 'Oh, I don't want to mess with the catcher too much.' But he was the first to tell me, 'You tell me what you need, and I'm going to make it happen.' I think that's kind of a testament to the player he is, the work ethic he has behind the scenes.

"The targets, the pitch-calling was fantastic today. I'm looking forward to working with him more."

Before crowning Lucroy the new McCann, realize that Grandal is still sidelined after twisting his knee during practice last week. He's expected back soon, and perhaps if he was ready to play by Tuesday, it would have been him catching Giolito. Who knows?

But the rave review for Lucroy is something, at least, as we continue to watch the position battle between him, Zack Collins and Yermín Mercedes for the job of backing up Grandal. Lucroy might not boast the power potential of the two youngsters, but he has veteran experience catching major league pitching and doesn't have the same defensive questions as the others.

A positive experience catching Giolito can only help his chances of winning the job.

A positive experience throwing to Lucroy? Maybe it helps Giolito's chances of transitioning to life after McCann. We'll see.

Backup-catcher tracker: But wait, there's more to Lucroy's day

Lucroy did more than win over Giolito behind the plate. He had a couple hits, as well, a single and a double before being lifted for Collins.

Lucroy, despite a lengthy big league career and an a couple of All-Star appearances — he finished fourth in the NL MVP vote in 2016 — is perhaps viewed as the lesser of the backup catchers from an offensive standpoint, given the power displays Collins and Mercedes put up in the minor leagues.

But with two hits, he's the leader in the clubhouse in that category through the White Sox first three spring games. Mercedes doubled Monday, while Collins has walked three times in his two games.

Lucroy has hit just .248 with a .666 OPS since the end of the 2016 season, but he foreshadowed a potential late-career revival when he joined the White Sox, talking about getting a herniated disc in his neck finally addressed.

"At the end of 2016, I herniated a disc in my neck. If you look at my numbers that year, I hit pretty well, and it became a steady decline from there. I'm 100 percent of the belief that was the main issue that caused all that," Lucroy said last month. "I had it corrected. In 2019, in November, I had it fixed, I had a disc replacement done in my neck.

"Suffice to say, it's been pretty amazing the recovery that I've had. And so now it's about getting the opportunity and getting back out there and showing teams I've still got it."

Yoán Moncada back in the field

Moncada made his spring debut as the White Sox third baseman in Tuesday's game, forced to DH two days earlier while overcoming some early spring soreness in his throwing arm.

The nicks kept coming for the guy who spent the 2020 campaign battling the effects of his preseason COVID-19 infection. Moncada was hit in the foot with a pitch in the first inning, but he stayed in the game and scored on Andrew Vaughn's three-run homer. Moncada later got his first hit of the Cactus League schedule, doubling and scoring on a José Abreu double.

"Moncy looks great," White Sox hitting coach Frank Menechino said before the game. "He looks great. His swing looks really good. His timing is still spring-training timing, but he looks like way better.

"This guy looks like he’s ready to go. He cleaned up some stuff with his hitting, stuff that he couldn’t figure out last year. He worked really hard this offseason. He should be fine."

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