Lucroy starts, has 3-hit night in 'fun' Cubs debut

CINCINNATI -- Saying he's fully healed from a concussion that sidelined him last month, new Chicago Cubs catcher Jonathan Lucroy was thrown right into the fire, starting against the Cincinnati Reds on Thursday and collecting three hits in the Cubs' 12-5 win.

"I got some good pitches to hit tonight," Lucroy said after the game. "They made some mistakes to me, and I was able to get the barrel on them. So, yeah, it was a good night. It was fun."

Lucroy, along with the team's other offensive stars of the game, might not get much attention after Cubs star Javier Baez decided to hit left-handed in the ninth inning with Reds catcher Kyle Farmer on the mound.

Baez has often hit lefty in batting practice and got permission from manager Joe Maddon to try it for the first time in a professional game. He popped out on the first pitch.

"At first I was scared," Baez said through a smile. "I was kind of nervous. I wanted to swing so bad. ... I just didn't know when to start [my swing]. I'll probably do it again if I face a position player or someone that isn't throwing hard."

The Cubs were able to have some fun after a rare series-opening win on the road. Newcomer Nicholas Castellanos and recently recalled infielder/outfielder Ian Happ led the charge along with Lucroy. Happ hit his third home run in four games, and Castellanos went deep twice.

In eight games as a Cub, Castellanos is slugging .879, and he is just the third player in the live-ball era to record at least nine extra base hits in his first eight games after a midseason trade. He has six doubles and three home runs as a Cub.

"He just has a great approach for me," Maddon said. "That's the kind of approach that never grows old to watch."

Lucroy got the start with former teammate Cole Hamels on the mound. Before the game, the Cubs' new catcher, who was designated for assignment by the Los Angeles Angels earlier this month, rattled off no fewer than seven Cubs pitchers he has caught at various stops during his career.

"I'm definitely looking forward to being a part of it," Lucroy said. "Being able to step in and not have to worry about having to learn guys on the fly, it's pretty nice."

He missed most of July after a home plate collision in Houston that resulted in his third diagnosed concussion.

"In the grand scheme of things, it wasn't that severe," Lucroy said. "I know it looked pretty terrible. The symptoms weren't bad at all. I was very fortunate."

Lucroy returned for just one game with the Angels before being designated for assignment. He was signed by the Cubs after their regular starter, Willson Contreras, injured his right hamstring just days after the trade deadline.

"Another grown-up in the room," Maddon said of the 33-year-old Lucroy. "I think he's going to be very beneficial."

Thursday's game began a 10-game stretch for the Cubs on the road, where they are 22-33. In an attempt to change the vibe, clubhouse attendants brought the team's home white jerseys with them to Cincinnati and hung them in players' lockers. The Cubs are 41-19 at Wrigley Field this season.

"If we could wear them on the field, I would totally promote it," Maddon said. "We have to do something. We're poking fun at that a little bit, but it brings [the road record] to our attention."

League rules prevent the Cubs from wearing their home jerseys during road games, but the idea for their appearance made its way around the clubhouse.

"It's no secret," first baseman Anthony Rizzo said. "We have to play better on the road. Maybe we'll put them out in the dugout."

Added Maddon: "Even .500 on the road, we would be in a wonderful position. We should be .500 on the road."
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