Red Sox

McAdam: Change happens fast; just look at the Red Sox' catching situation


McAdam: Change happens fast; just look at the Red Sox' catching situation

If you don't think that things can change dramatically in baseball, then you haven't been paying attention to the catching situation with the Red Sox.

It was only this past off-season and spring training that the Sox were trying to determine which young catcher was going to handle the position for the foreseeable future: Blake Swihart or Christian Vazquez.

Now, Swihart is injured after being converted -- for the time being, anyway -- to the outfield, Vazquez has been optioned back to Triple A and Sandy Leon has become the de facto starting catcher.

That's hardly how the Red Sox envisioned things only a few short months ago.

Vazquez was coming off Tommy John surgery, having missed the entire 2015 season, but still regarded as a top-notch receiver. Swihart, who had a strong second half to his rookie season, was seen as still developing offensively, but someone who could already provide above-average offense from the catching position.

Would the Red Sox go with the strong-armed Vazquez or choose the production that Swihart could offer? And no matter which player they decided upon, what would happen to the other?

Now, a lot of that debate seems moot.

Swihart struggled defensively in the first few weeks of the season, and didn't get untracked at the plate. In need of a more assertive player behind the plate to help direct an underperforming pitching staff, the Red Sox recalled Vazquez earlier than anticipated from a rehab stint at Triple A.

After a stellar first few days in which he flashed his arm strength, stole strikes with his pitch-framing ability and clubbed a few extra-base hits, Vazquez regressed.

In the meantime, Swihart began experimenting with the outfield at Pawtucket, and when Brock Holt was lost to a concussion, Swihart was summoned to provide a left-handed bat to platoon with Chris Young in left.

Swihart, a superb athlete, showed good instincts in left, but still didn't hit much. Then, he suffered a severe left ankle sprain and remains weeks away from getting back into games.

With Ryan Hanigan out with a shoulder and neck injury, Leon emerged as utter a surprise. A career .237 hitter, Leon is hitting .500 after 40 at-bats. Not four, or 14 at-bats. Forty.

Granted, that won't last. But 40 at-bats is a solid sample size, and the way Leon has contributed offensively, the Sox couldn't ignore his play. With Hanigan ready to return and Leon out of options and almost certainly set to be claimed if he were to be placed on waivers, the Sox held on to Leon and sent their "catcher of the future'' back to the minor leagues.

It won't last forever, of course. I'm fairly certain Leon is not going to supplant Ted Williams as baseball's next .400 hitter, and Vazquez can take the time at Pawtucket to re-discovered his swing, and perhaps, get a mental break from what has been a demanding season for him, a year removed from major surgery that threatened his most valuable skill.

If nothing else, the Red Sox can allow Leon to showcase himself and transform himself into a major trading chip -- either later this month or this off-season. Leon won't keep up this offensive growth spurt, but if he shows he can help out with the bat and sharpen his defensive play further, he'll be a nice commodity to market.

In the meantime, he and Hanigan give the Red Sox two quality defenders behind the plate with whom the staff is comfortable.

And it never hurts to have a .500 hitter in your lineup.

Sean McAdam can be followed on Twitter: @Sean_McAdam

Strong Grapefruit League debut for Price

Strong Grapefruit League debut for Price

David Price's Grapefruit League debut was nearly perfect.

The Red Sox left-hander pitched four scoreless innings, allowing a hit and a walk and striking out five in a 7-5 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays in Fort Myers, Fla.

Price threw 55 pitches, 34 for strikes. He cruised through the first on nine pitches. He allowed the single and walk in the second.  

"It feels good. This is March 15 and I've never been able to have a four-pitch mix on March 15," Price told reporters after his start. "I've never been this far along in spring training even though I've only thrown in one game. I'm excited about that."

The Red Sox open March 29 at Tampa Bay, with Chris Sale likely to start. Price will likely pitch the second game of the season, March 30 at Tropicana Field.