The Boston Red Sox are considering activating catcher Christian Vazquez from the disabled list to help stabilize their struggling pitching staff, according to Alex Speier of the Boston Globe. Speier added that Red Sox manager John Farrell said that, while there have been on-going discussions about their catching situation, nothing is imminent.
Vasquez missed the entire 2015 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery prior to the start of the season and is currently on a rehab assignment in Triple-A Pawtucket. The 25-year old was slated to spend 20-days in Pawtucket, which means he could stay in the minors until April 28, but Scott Lauber of ESPN Boston believes the Sox need the defensive-minded catcher now to prevent the pitching staff from totally imploding.
Boston (3-4) has lost three straight and has given up 40 runs thus far this season, which includes 18 runs in the past two games against Baltimore. The Red Sox rank 27th in the majors with a 5.90 ERA and 19th with a 1.39 WHIP. Even more troubling are the struggles the starting pitching staff has experienced.
Boston signed 2012 AL Cy Young Award winner David Price this offseason for $217 million, but he has struggled in his two starts thus far. The 30-year old lefty is 1-0 on the season though he has given up seven runs in 10 innings for a 5.73 ERA. Overall, the Red Sox starters have recorded just two quality starts and are averaging only five innings of work along with a 7.32 ERA. Clay Buchholz, Ricky Porcello, Steven Wright and Joe Kelly fill out the Sox rotation.
While it is ultimately the pitchers up to limit their mistakes, the Sox need more help from their catchers defensively – currently Blake Swihart and Ryan Hanigan are the two backstops on the roster. Swihart has started six of the seven games and has struggled immensely behind the plate.
“We’re going out there, we’re making our pitches, and it’s up to me to see batters’ swings and see what they’re doing and make adjustments from there,” Swihart said after Boston’s 9-5 loss to Baltimore Tuesday, in which his misplay of a foul pop out opened the floodgates for the Orioles. “I think I can do a little better job with that.”
With Boston up 4-2 in the top of the six inning and Chris Davis after a lead-off single to left, Buchholz got Mike Trumbo to pop up a 2-1 pitch but Swihart was unable to snare it in foul territory along the first-base line. With new life, Trumbo fouled off other pitches before launching Buchholz’s ninth pitch of the inning over the left-center fence to tie the game. The Orioles added one more run in the sixth and then tallied four in the seventh inning. Swihart also missed a foul pop-up in the series against Toronto.
Swihart ranks 17th (tied) in the majors among 23 qualified catchers in catchers ERA at 5.71. The 24-year old has no errors but leads the league with three passed balls and has thrown out just 1-of-4 would-be base stealers (25 percent). Boston pitchers also have been charged with four wild pitches with Swihart behind the plate.
Offensively, Swihart is currently on a five-game hitting streak and is hitting.278 (5-for-18) for the year. The switch-hitter has drove in one run and has drawn four walks. He hit.274 with five homers, while striking out 77 times in 288 at-bats as a rookie last year.
Hanigan is the most experienced catcher on the Red Sox roster, with nine years of experience. The 35-year old has played just one game and has a 6.00 catchers ERA. He is 0-for-3 with one walk in four plate appearances this season.
Vazquez played in seven spring training games this year, hitting.091 (1-for-11), though he reportedly passed nearly every one of the team’s test. However, the Red Sox decided to send him to Pawtucket to build his stamina.
Vazquez has played in five of the six PawSox games this season, catching in four of them. He leads the squad with a.462 (6-for-13) average and has also committed one error.
Vazquez has 55 games of major league experience, all in 2014. He has a career.240 average with one homer and 20 RBI. Defensively, he registered a 3.71 catcher’s ERA and eight passed balls, along with five errors. Vazquez threw out 15-of-29 (51.7 percent) would-be base stealers in 2014.
Vazquez drew praise for how he handled the pitching staff this spring. Buchholz was one of the pitcher’s that spoke up about how they feel about having Vazquez behind the plate during spring training.
“He’s good back there. You don’t have to worry about bouncing a pitch. You know he’s going to block it if he’s anywhere in the vicinity.”
[photo by Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press]