With No. 1 catcher Jonathan Lucroy expected to spend the next month recovering from surgery for a fractured pinkie, there exists the real possibility that either George Kottaras or Wil Nieves, or perhaps Mike Rivera, will make his first-ever Opening Day start. None of those players were celebrating that possibility on Thursday morning.
“It’s always sad to see one of your teammates getting hurt,” said Nieves, who joined the Brewers as a free agent in December. “I don’t see George or Lucroy or the other guys as competition, I see them as teammates.”
Said Kottaras: “I’m just going to go out and do what I needed to do in the first place. I’m going to try to get better, and that was the whole goal coming in.”
The catchers were working on fielding throws from the outfield on Wednesday morning when a ball skipped on the hard infield and fractured his right pinkie finger. Lucroy finished the drill, but later underwent x-rays that revealed the broken bone.
“The grass was a little bit fast and the ball was skipping hard,” Nieves said. “You feel bad for him, but I told him, ‘You’re going to be fine.’ I know he was excited for this season, and he still should be excited. If he misses a couple of games, it’s not going to be a big deal. He’s a strong kid.”
Lucroy is expected to miss about four weeks, putting him on track to be healed about a week before the Brewers’ March 31 opener in Cincinnati. But Lucroy might have to stay back in extended Spring Training to get back into hitting and throwing shape.
The Brewers will make those determinations deeper into Lucroy’s rehabilitation.
Nieves has been a part of five Opening Day rosters — two with the Yankees and three with the Nationals — but has never started. In Washington, the reserves lined up along the foul lines while the starters ran in from the outfield on a red carpet, with fireworks exploding overhead.
Rivera was on the Opening Day roster in 2008 and 2009. Kottaras was on Milwaukee’s Opening Day roster last year.
“I feel one step ahead because I know some of the guys and I’m so used to catching them in the past,” Kottaras said. “When I came in last year I didn’t know anybody, their tendencies and so forth. having that year’s experience with the guys, I feel more comfortable.”