To make room for the activation of Christian Vazquez from his rehab assignment, the Red Sox optioned Blake Swihart to Pawtucket Friday, and in order to maximize his future use, will have him play some left field while in the minor leagues.
Swihart started six of the first eight games while Vazquez was easing into more playing time following his Tommy John surgery 13 months ago. But with Vazquez deemed the far better defensive catcher and the pitching staff struggling, the Sox opted to bring back Vazquez as the starting catcher and allow Swihart to get regular playing time at Pawtucket.
“It was a very difficult decision because of how much we like Blake,” said president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski, “and how good a player we think he is. We emphasized that to him when we talked. We thought about should we carry three catchers (with Ryan Hanigan) or not. A lot of people were involved in the decision.
“But it comes down to we think he has a chance to be an All-Star type catcher. It won't hurt him to go down and continue to develop those skills and with Christian coming on board, we don't think that the catching time here will be enough for him to continue for grow in that regard. (And) as we look toward the future, we would like Christian Vazquez and Blake Swihart to be part of our club. And they're both not going to be everyday catchers with our team.”
Dombrowski described Swihart as the “more athletic” of the two.
“We think he can make a conversion to another position, even on a part-time basis,” said Dombrowski, “so we can keep his bat in the lineup. So we're going to start hitting him fly balls in left field. We think that's more fair to do that at Triple A rather than just putting him at the big league level here and say, 'OK, here you go.'
“So between catching, (the outfield) and DH, he'll be in the lineup every day and we think that's more beneficial to him and his career, rather than being in the lineup on a periodic basis here.”
Dombrowski said Swihart was “a little bit disappointed” by the demotion, but willing and eager to learn the outfield.
“Blake's response was 'I'll do anything...I just want to play for the Red Sox,' “ Dombrowski revealed.
Dombrowski said the Sox spoke about getting Swihart some time in the outfield before spring training, but that couldn't be worked in “because he was our Opening Day catcher and we didn't want him thinking about something else other than that.”