Three Things we learned from the Boston Red Sox' 5-3 win over the Toronto Blue Jays
1) It's impossible to overstate the impact Christian Vazquez had in his first game back.
By Sean McAdam
CSN Red Sox Insider
Making his first regular season appearance in more than 18 months, Vazquez did it all. He did a nice job handling Rick Porcello behind the plate. He blocked a number of pitches in the dirt. He picked off a baserunner at first. And just for good measure, he was 2-for-4 at the plate.
"I can't say enough about the job that Christian did back there,'' said Porcello. "Blocking balls, calling the game -- he was tremendous. The pickoff (of Troy Tulowitzki in the second) was huge, to get us out of that inning. We kind of got on a roll after that. It was a huge play. We know he's got a huge arm, and that's proof.''
Another less obvious part of Vazquez's game is the ability to subtly steal a strike by pulling a pitch an inch or two off the plate back into the umpire's line of sight for a favorable call.
"If he can get you a couple of extra strike calls against a team like (Toronto),'' said Porcello, "that's huge. Getting ahead of guys and getting some of those calls is huge. If you can get ahead of them and get them to expand the strike zone, that's really what you have to do. If you have to be in the strike zone, they're going to get some good swings off you. His ability to catch the ball and frame it and do what he does back there, it's huge for this pitching staff.''
And because Porcello seldom was in real trouble - he had four 1-2-3 innings and retired 13 straight at one point -- he didn't need Vazquez to assert himself much. But when that's necessary, Vazquez is capable.
"He's the captain on the field,'' Porcello said. "That's what that position calls for. He brings that.''
2) Rick Porcello learned some things from facing the Blue Jays last Saturday.
In that start, Porcello twice gave up homers to Jose Bautista. Both times, he had men on base, accounting for four runs.
On Friday night, Porcello did a better job working his fastball to both sides of the plate, and for the most part, kept it down in the zone. He was beaten twice by Edwin Encarnacion, but the first time, he had the good sense to have the bases empty when the Jays DH struck.
"It's hard to work through that whole lineup,'' said Porcello, "and not get hurt by one of those guys. So really, the key is to keep the other guys off base so that if you do have to pitch to those guys, it's hopefully with nobody on base.''
Those Encarnacion homers were the only hits Porcello allowed. That was impressive, and so was the fact that he was facing the same tough lineup for the second time in a span of a week.
"The more they see you (in a short span),'' said Porcello, "the more information they can pick up. They can see the action of pitches, where you're missing, that sort of thing. But if you execute good pitches, it really shouldn't matter.''
Toward that end, Porcello had an effective two-seamer that got him seven outs on the ground.
3) The move to have Blake Swihart try the outfield has a downside.
Before Friday's game, president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski said the Sox plan to start working Swihart in the outfield, making him more versatile and enabling him to contribute later in the season while Vazquez is behind the plate.
In theory, that's fine. Flexibility is always good for a club, and Swihart is athletic enough to make the transition.
But know this: a big part of Swihart's value is that he's considered a good offensive and athletic catcher. Catchers who can hit, and run well are rare and always in demand.
Once Swihart starts putting up similar numbers as a left fielder -- or a third baseman or a first baseman, for that matter -- the numbers he produces will likely be sub-average for those positions.
If Swihart could hit 280 with 15-20 homers and knock in 80 runs, he might one day profile as Buster Posey of the San Francisco Giants.
If, however, he posts those same numbers as a left fielder, he's merely ordinary.