Spring training will play host to two positional battles for the Red Sox: third base and catcher.
There’s been plenty of chatter about Pablo Sandoval, whether it’s that he’s not guaranteed the job just because he lost weight, or Dave Dombrowski making it clear he prefers Sandoval to win the job.
Catcher is a little different. While John Farrell told reporters before the Boston BBWAA dinner last week that Sandy Leon would get the job if the season were to start today, he’s not sure where things will end up, neither is Dombrowski.
Although, when asked about Blake Swihart’s health at last week at Red Sox Winter weekend, the Red Sox president of baseball operations made sure to mention the 24-year-old was heading down to Florida right after the event.
Christian Vazquez is also in the catching mix as well.
In talking to Swihart soon after, something seemed different about him. A sense of urgency. Not to get in-and-out of the interview, but almost providing a taste of what to expect this year.
“I’m ready to get going,” Swihart said when first asked about his ankle and the off-season. “That’s all I can say. I haven’t played a game since June 4 and I’m ready to go.”
Safe to say he’s itching to get rolling? Not playing in more than 200 days will do that to someone who’s used to playing everyday.
But he made sure he turned his bum ankle - injured while playing left field last season - into a positive so he’d come back equipped to take over behind the plate.
“I missed it a lot,” Swihart said. “I learned a lot though, too. I was able to watch a lot of baseball.”
“Leaned a lot about the team, learned a lot about other teams, learned a lot about myself. How to switch up my game, what to do different, what to keep doing. So I’m ready to go.”
It’s good Swihart identified he needed to make changes to his game, otherwise he’d have no chance to live up to the hype surrounding him.
His bat was pretty good in his first tour with Boston (.271, .714 OPS, five homers, 36 RBI in 103 games in parts of two seasons), nothing overwhelming, but last year he was feeling that sophomore slump a little. His defense, on the other hand, has never been much to talk about -- not a good way to describe someone playing the position where defense is far more important than offense.
“Overall, I’m fixing my stance a little bit, fixing my trigger, fixing my receiving, my game-calling, everything,” Swihart rattled off. “My blocking, [with] everything I’m making little adjustments all the time.”
It's a bunch of little adjustments he hopes will turn into a major transformation.
Swihart also mentioned he’d spent time working on these changes with Dana LeVangie -- the Sox catching coordinator as well as bullpen coach -- as well as talking with Jason Varitek. Got a guess what the guy who’s called a major league-best four no-hitters discussed with him?