The Cubs moved to upgrade their catching position Wednesday by signing veteran Jonathan Lucroy, who had been designated for assignment by the Los Angeles Angels.
Lucroy, 33, gives the Cubs some catching insurance in the absence of No. 1 catcher Willson Contreras, who is out for about a month with a right hamstring strain.
Victor Caratini has taken over the role of starting catcher for the Cubs. Taylor Davis recently was called up from Triple-A Iowa to back up Caratini.
Lucroy is making $3.35 million this season, and the Cubs will pay him only a prorated share of the major league minimum salary. He will join the Cubs on Thursday in Cincinnati, and the Cubs will option Davis back to Iowa.
“I’ve never met him, worked against him,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “I’ve heard a lot of wonderful things about him. He adds that veteran mix behind the plate that I think is really important, especially this time of the year.”
Lucroy suffered a concussion and broken nose when bowled over at home plate July 7 by Houston’s Jake Marisnick.
For the season, Lucroy had a line of. 242/.310/.371 with seven home runs and 30 RBIs. He came up with Milwaukee in 2010 and also has played for Texas, Colorado and Oakland. In 2016, he hit 24 homers combined for the Brewers and Rangers.
“We’re really excited,” Maddon said. “To get a player of that caliber right now with everything that’s going on for us, the misfortune, we’re pretty fortunate.”
The Cubs had been caught short behind the plate after they traded veteran Martin Maldonado to the Houston Astros for Tony Kemp last week. They had obtained Maldonado on July 5 in a trade with the Kansas City Royals for pitcher Mike Montgomery.
Caratini homered in Wednesday’s 10-1 victory over Oakland, and Maddon said he would figure out a way for both Caratini and Lucroy to play.
Underwood dazzles in relief: The Cubs still were buzzing Wednesday about the six-strikeout performance by reliever Duane Underwood Jr. in Tuesday night’s 11-4 loss to the Oakland Athletics.
Underwood, recalled Monday from Triple-A Iowa, struck out all six batters he faced in relief of Jon Lester.
Elias Sports Bureau notes that he is the first Cubs pitcher since 1900 to face at least six batters in a game and strike them all out. The six strikeouts tied a franchise record for a reliever in a single game, previously set by Juan Cruz in 2003 and Bruce Sutter in 1977.
The Cubs converted Underwood from a starter to a reliever in May.
“When a guy just knows he’s out there for an inning or two, you could get a more assertive approach,” Maddon said. “I don’t know that I’ve seen 95 or 96 [mph] out of him. I don’t know that I have. He’s really done a lot of work regarding the changeup.
“When I first saw him, he was more curveball-changeup. It seems a lot of times when you take a guy with a good arm and just pop him out there, they just let it go for that brief amount of time. That’s what you’re seeing.”