Sunday provided ample evidence of the perils of being a major league catcher. Hours after the Pittsburgh Pirates’ Francisco Cervelli said he was giving up the position because of concussions, the Los Angeles Angels’ Jonathan Lucroy had to be carted off the field following a violent collision at home plate.
Lucroy left the game in the eighth inning and was taken to a hospital. He suffered a concussion and a broken nose, he told ESPN, and he expects to be released from the hospital Monday.
Jake Marisnick of the Houston Astros was attempting to tag up from third base and score on a short flyball to right field when he crashed into Lucroy, who subsequently lay on the field for a few moments and required medical attention. Lucroy lost the ball on the play, but Marisnick was ruled out for deviating from his path and initiating contact.
Earlier Sunday, the 33-year-old Cervelli told dkpittsburghsports.com, “That’s enough. This time is different. I can’t live like this.”
Cervelli suffered the sixth known concussion of his 11-year major league career May 25, when a broken bat hit him in the mask. He hasn’t played since, and while he told the website he was feeling “great,” Cervelli said that when he returned to action, it would be with a glove, not a catcher’s mitt, on his hand.
“Our discussions with Cervy to date have been about playing other positions, and we want to honor and respect that,” Pirates General Manager Neal Huntington told reporters before Sunday’s game against the Milwaukee Brewers. “He’s come so far to be major league-ready in a short period of time. We just want to do right by him.”
A foul tip off the mask put San Francisco Giants catcher Buster Posey on the concussion list earlier this season, his second such stint since 2017. The severe injuries he suffered in a 2011 collision at home plate, including a broken leg and torn ankle ligaments, were a major factor in a 2014 rule change aimed at limiting those types of incidents.
The rule bars catchers from blocking home plate before they have the ball, and it states, “A runner attempting to score may not deviate from his direct pathway to the plate in order to initiate contact with the catcher, or otherwise initiate an avoidable collision.”
Following Sunday’s game, Marisnick defended his actions on the play.
“I was running, I see [Lucroy] taking a step up the line like he’s going to drop and go back, so I try to take an in step and slide headfirst on the inside corner,” the 28-year-old outfielder said. “I watched the play again, and he drops right in front of me. Once I kind of made a decision, it was too late. It was a bad play, and I hope he’s okay.”
Nine-time Gold Glove-winning catcher Yadier Molina, who has won two World Series with the St. Louis Cardinals, wrote on Instagram that the play was “Bulls---!!!”
"MLB need to take action on this Bulls--- play!” Molina wrote. “F---! Praying for Lucroy! slide slide slide.”
To Angels Manager Brad Ausmus, a former major league catcher, it “certainly didn’t look like a clean play.” Ausmus said “Major League Baseball should probably take a look” at the play and “consider some type of suspension, quite frankly.”
“I don’t fault Jake because he wasn’t hunting him, he wasn’t going after him,” said Astros Manager A.J. Hinch, also a former major league catcher. “He tried to take a step on where Lucroy was going to go, and it’s difficult in that little 1- to 3-foot circle where you’re trying to figure out going at full speed what’s going to happen. It just turned out to be an ugly play.”