Mar­lins

Sun Sentinel Broward Edition - - SPORTS - By Tim Healey Staff writer thealey@sunsen­tinel.com; @timb­healey

For­mer util­ity player Ed Lu­cas, left, talks tran­si­tion from be­ing on the field to coach­ing.

JUPITER — Ed Lu­cas was coming off the bench for the Triple-A Reno Aces last sum­mer when it hit him: Thiswas prob­a­bly the end. He­was in his mid-30s, toil­ing in the mi­nors and thou­sands of miles away from his wife and kid, so af­ter 13 sea­sons as a pro­fes­sional base­ball player it was about time to try some­thing else.

Lu­cas might have been able to get a play­ing gig for 2017. Hemight not have. He didn’t even try. In­stead, at sea­son’s end he be­gan reach­ing out to his con­tacts through­out base­ball to see what non-play­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties might be avail­able — coach­ing, scout­ing, what­ever.

That in­cluded the Mar­lins, the team with which Lu­cas spent his only two ma­jor league sea­sons from 2013-14. The or­ga­ni­za­tion ended up with an open­ing, on the big league staff to boot. Pat Shine, the team’s ad­min­is­tra­tive coach/re­play co­or­di­na­tor, took a man­ag­ing job in the Seat­tle Mariners’ farm sys­tem.

Lu­cas was a nat­u­ral re­place­ment. For years, Lu­cas was a util­ity player. Now, he’s a util­ity coach.

“They kind of made my dreams come true al­ready, so I sought out the Mar­lins,” Lu­cas said. “Call No. 1.”

It’s Lu­cas’ first time back in the ma­jors since the fi­nal day of the 2014 sea­son, when the Wash­ing­ton Na­tion­als’ Jor­dan Zim­mer­mann no-hit the Mar­lins— a game best remembered, per­haps, for the last out, when Chris­tian Yelich’s line drive to left-cen­ter turned into the fi­nal out af­ter left fielder Steven Souza laid out for the catch.

Lu­cas didn’t play in that game, but he made sure to take a sou­venir from it for per­sonal rea­sons, not no­hit­ter ones. He went back onto the field with a lit­tle Ga­torade cup and filled it with dirt. He still has the con­tainer — cov­ered in tape so as to not lot the specks es­cape— at home.

“Maybe it was a pes­simistic view of my ca­reer, but I walked off the field and into the club­house and thought to my­self, you know what? Who knows what’s go­ing to hap­pen this off­sea­son?” Lu­cas said.

“I walked back into the club­house and was like, I hope this isn’t it. I hope this cup of dirt isn’t the last time I’m on the field. But it turned out to be. As a player.”

As video re­play co­or­di­na­tor, Lu­cas will be the Mar­lins’ man down the tun­nel, re­view­ing close plays and com­mu­ni­cat­ing to the dugout whether man­ager Don Mat­tingly should chal­lenge them.

As an ad­min­is­tra­tive coach, Lu­cas will be the staff’s ver­sion of a util­ity man. In ad­di­tion to on-field du­ties like throw­ing bat­ting prac­tice and as­sist­ing in­field coach Perry Hill, he’ll be work­ing to en­sure “we’re pre­par­ing like a cham­pi­onship team.”

“I wasn’t a very good player my­self, rel­a­tively speak­ing,” Lu­cas said. “So I felt the need to do all that I could — whether it be video or num­bers. I felt like I needed to be as pre­pared as I could be in or­der to be at the ma­jor league level.

“So I want to help th­ese guys, whether it be be­com­ing more fa­mil­iar with a cer­tain pitcher, div­ing into num­bers they haven’t in­ves­ti­gated be­fore. Iwant to do as much as I can tomake sure that th­ese guys are as pre­pared as pos­si­ble. If they haven’t done any­thing like that be­fore, maybe push them in the right di­rec­tion and fig­ure it out.”

Lu­cas said he hasn’t broached the sub­ject of re­plac­ing Shine is his most fa­mous role— that of Gian­carlo Stan­ton’s pitcher at the Home Run Derby— but there is plenty of time un­til this year’s com­pe­ti­tion, at Mar­lins Park on July 10. Stan­ton, last year’s champ, is al­most cer­tain to try to de­fend his crown.

“I was aware of that as I came back,” said Lu­cas, who twoweeks into spring train­ing has thrown about a half-dozen BP ses­sions. “I was like, dang, Gis go­ing to be mad Pat Shine isn’t here any­more and I’m not go­ing to be able to step right in there and do what he does.”

Lu­cas will look to con­tinue to build that chem­istry as spring rolls on. It helps that the Mar­lins’ Open­ing Day ros­ter is set to in­clude dou­ble-digit team­mates from his play­ing days.

The re­la­tion­ship is a lit­tle dif­fer­ent now, though.

“I can’t quite fool around like I used to,” Lu­cas said. “But it’s good to be back.”

DAVID J. PHILLIP/AP

Ed Lu­cas, above, re­placed Pat Shine as a coach.

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