How a home plate collision might have saved Jonathan Lucroy's career


FORT MYERS, Fla. -- For Jonathan Lucroy working out in the Fort Worth, Texas area with his buddy, Rockies star Trevor Story, wasn't anything new. But when the pair met up in October this time around something certainly stood out.

Each player volunteered to try out a new contraption at the workout facility, something that put each participant on their knees in order to whip around what resembled a broomstick. The goal was to accurately measure the miles-per-hour the players' swing came in at.

Story, one of the best National League hitters in 2019, came in at 88 mph.

It was then Lucroy's turn: 46 mph.

That was the last straw for the former All-Star catcher.

"I’m a pretty stubborn guy," the newest Red Sox told Friday. "I have dealt with a lot of pain. Being a catcher you have to deal with it. Stuff like that you just have to deal with it. But that mentality got me in trouble."

Even before the bat-speed test Lucroy knew things weren't right. Not only had his offensive numbers continued to sag, but he was forced to drop his bat-size from 34 ounces to 33 1/2, knowing the explosion that had led him to a fourth-place in the National League MVP voting in 2014 was gone. 

Something had to be done. Fortunately, thanks to a July 7 home-plate collision in Houston with Jake Marisnick Lucroy had a pretty good idea what the next step was. A CT scan necessitated by the incident against the Astros showed his neck had a herniation and bone spurs. At the time it explained a lot.

Going back to 2016 Lucroy hadn't felt quite right. But up until the get-together with Story in the offseason, it just seemed like the pain was something that would be part of the deal for the rest of his career.

"We were in Cincinnati and I was with the Rangers," he remembered. "I was laying on a couch in my hotel room, on my phone with my head propped up against a head-rest. The next day I go to the field and I started to hit and I felt an electrical sensation down my arms. That was the beginning. I clearly had done it the night before laying on that couch. It wasn’t like I had gotten on a car wreck or anything like. It started the whole process. It lingered, didn’t get any better and continued to get worse, and worse, and worse.

"I played through it. I thought I could handle it. I thought I could control it. I was wrong."

The plan was going to be continuing down the road of powering through the discomfort until he had the wake-up call on that day with Story. Enough was enough. He scheduled the cervical disc replacement surgery, a procedure that has left a scar on the left-front side of his neck.

Four days after the operation, he was back working out, ultimately reintroducing himself to the bat-speed machine. Then, a few weeks before working out for a collection of teams (including the Red Sox) he got one final measurement: 99 mph.

"Whenever you feel freer and your body is not hurting, you feel strong, it’s like, ‘Man, now I just have to get an opportunity. I can show them I still have it.’ I think this (injury) has definitely made me weaker and slower," Lucroy noted. "Anything that affects the spinal cord or nerve issues really impacts you. This is a real miracle of medicine. I feel better every day I go out there. It’s pretty what medicine can do these days."

Now comes the ultimate test: Trying to make the Red Sox as a non-roster invitee.

"I feel so much better," he said. "Hopefully it pay off."