FORT MYERS, Fla. -- The ball sailed over Rick Porcello’s head. Another one skipped in the dirt before reaching the right-hander.
Blake Swihart was having trouble Thursday with the most elementary and crucial catching skill: Throwing the ball back to his pitcher.
Here's video of an example of the issues Blake Swihart had this morning in throwing back to the pitcher. pic.twitter.com/ceKkBHbtqn— NBC Sports Boston (@NBCSBoston) February 17, 2017
“This is something that just kind of has popped up a little bit,” said manager John Farrell. “[Blake has] always been a good athlete, a good athletic catcher, accurate thrower. There’s some technique he’s working through right now and this isn’t even with throwing the ball to second base. It’s just a matter of him transferring, getting the ball back to the pitcher in good shape. We’re working on it right now.”
Swihart didn't duck questions in the clubhouse on Friday. The catcher admitted he's working through some mechanical problems.
“I’m not concerned," Swhihart told reporters. “Misfiring here and there, but I’m not too worried about it.”
Swihart remains confident in his abilities, but acknowledged he doesn't like to let down his pitchers.
“It’s more just me feeling bad for the pitcher I’m throwing it to, that’s about it.”
The issue arose on Thursday while Swihart was catching Porcello’s bullpen. He hit the backstop about a half-a-dozen times while also skipping the ball in the dirt. On Friday, the catcher’s throws were crisper, but he was hesitating on the ball transfer.
“Every day there’s something going on as a catcher,” said Swihart. "Right now I need to focus on shortening up my arm and fixing my mechanics.”
Swihart moved to left field on May 20 last year and hasn’t caught a game since last April 12. On June 4 he injured his ankle when he slammed into the wall in a game against Toronto. The injury ended up requiring season-ending surgery.
This year, the Red Sox moved Swihart back to the catching full-time.
When asked if the move from catching to the outfield back to catching again was the root of the problem, Farrell dismissed the notion: “[It's] far too early in camp to think that has any bearing on this.”
However, Swihart acknowledged he's going through a transition period.
“You know," he said, "when you’re in the outfield you have a longer arm swing and arm movement and I’m just trying to shorten it back up.”
Catching has always been a work in progress for the 24-year-old. In high school he was a shortstop who didn't begin catching until his junior season.
“I’ve been working on my throws since I started catching,” said Swihart. “You know when I first got drafted I wasn’t a catcher. I’m just doing the same exact thing. It’s something I have to hone in and get accurate.”
The word ‘yips’ was mentioned in reference to Swihart’s struggles and Farrell was quick to set the record straight.
“Oh, I wouldn’t go that far,” said Farrell. “Again, we are just trying to create some consistent repetition to it right now.”
Which means for Swihart the early part of camp will be spent getting himself right. On Friday, he caught Robby Scott but spent a portion of the workout away from the other backstops and pitchers.