BOSTON -- As expected, the Red Sox activated Christian Vazquez today and he's in the starting lineup, batting eighth and catching, for the series opener tonight against the Blue Jays.
But surprisingly, they shipped out Blake Swihart as part of the package.
The Sox had opened a roster spot when they optioned outfielder Rusney Castillo to Pawtucket after Wednesday night's 4-2 victory over the Orioles. It was thought Vazquez would be the replacement -- especially when he didn't accompany the PawSox on the nine-game road trip that started Thursday in Lehigh Valley -- and he is.
The Red Sox, however, made another roster move at the same time. They sent Swihart to Pawtucket and recalled infielder Marco Hernandez, who batted .579 (11-for-19) with six doubles, and a 1.514 OPS for the Sox this year in spring training.
The move makes sense. Had Swihart not been sent out, the Sox would have been carrying three catchers and their only non-catching, in-game bench players would have been outfielder Chris Young and infielder Jeff Rutledge. Subbing Hernandez for Swihart gives them more in-game flexibility and insurance in case of injury.
Still, it was thought they'd carry three catchers -- at least for a little while -- since Vazquez is still in the final recovery stages of Tommy John surgery and won't be able to play long stretches at a time. With Swihart gone, Ryan Hanigan figures to get more playing time as he shares the job with Vazquez.
The Red Sox optioned three players, including lefties Robby Scott and Roenis Elias to Triple-A Pawtucket on Saturday, leaving rookie Bobby Poyner as the leading candidate to make the team as a lefty reliever.
Infielder Tzu-Wei Lin was also sent to Pawtucket and catcher Dan Butler, infielder Iván De Jesús Jr., and outfielders Rusney Castillo and Aneury Tavárez were re-assigned to minor league camp.
Poyner, 25, dominated at Double-A Portland last season. The 14th-round pick from the University of Florida in 2015 held opponents to a .142 batting average with a .094 ERA in 27 appearances for the Sea Dogs. Poyner has an 0.96 ERA with eight strikeouts in 9 1/3 spring training innings.
Red Sox manager Alex Corea told reporters in Florida on Saturday that left-handers Drew Pomeranz (left forearm) and Eduardo Rodriguez (offseason knee surgery) will begin the season on the disabled list, leaving Hector Velazquez, Justin Haley or Marcus Walden to make the team as the fifth starter.
A few decisions remain with the opener approaching Thursday at Tampa Bay, including whether Blake Swihart, Brock Holt or Deven Marrero will make team as bench players.
The Red Sox and catcher Christian Vazquez have agreed to a three-year contract extension that runs through 2021 with a team option for 2022, the team announced Saturday.
Jason Mastrodonato of the Boston Herald reported the contract details:
Vazquez, hitting .323 this spring with two homers, appeared in a career-high 99 games (85 starts) last season and hit .290 with five homers and 32 RBI. Vazquez also threw out 42 percent of attempted base stealers in 2017, the highest rate since 1987.
Vazquez split time with Sandy Leon (85 games) behind the plate last season. The Red Sox will carry three catchers on the Opening Day roster if Blake Swihart, who can also play the outfield, makes team.