MASHANTUCKET, Conn. — No one really thinks of Blake Swihart, the 26th overall draft pick in 2011, as part of the Red Sox farm system anymore. Prospect lists move quickly, even if most careers don’t follow a straight-line trajectory.
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Swihart’s health has been the complicating factor for years. He was on the Opening Day roster in 2016 but was sent to the minors quickly before returning in a utility role. A June collision with the wall while playing the outfield led to surgery on his left ankle in August 2016.
That ankle wasn’t fully healed in 2017 when he hit just .187 across the minors (mostly at Triple-A).
“I have a lot to prove and I have a lot to show people who Blake really is, who I really am,” Swihart said Saturday morning at Red Sox Winter Weekend at Foxwoods. “And I can’t wait to show everybody that I’m back.
“I think when I went and played in the Dominican [this winter is when I felt fully healed]. I was playing in my second straight game at catcher. Usually, when I played back-to-back days, I could feel something. I wasn’t supposed to play back-to-back days in the Dominican and I went there and I caught the next day and I was like you know what I actually feel pretty good today, what’s going on? … I’m ready.”
The ankle definitely affected his ability to hit.
“I couldn’t sit on my backside very well hitting left-handed so I was coming out of my swing and you guys saw last year, I struggled,” Swihart said. “I was trying to play through it and I think I’m taking this offseason to get healthy, it’s going to be a big difference.”
Swihart will be 26 in early April. Spring training will be Swihart’s chance to prove his health, and the Sox will have a decision to make by the end of spring with Swihart out of options for the first time in his career. Carry him on the 25-man roster, which appears most likely, or trade him.
He would never get through waivers to be able to be sent to the minor leagues after teams pursued him this winter. Swihart said he knew the trade rumors were out there, but he’s dealt with them plenty of times before.
Swihart wants to catch and said so Saturday. Still, he indicated he doesn’t see a conflict between his career goals and the potential for the Red Sox to use him as a utility man.
“I look at it as a win,” Swihart said. “I mean, I’m athletic enough to play other positions. I’m a switch-hitting catcher that can play nine other positions. You know? I can get on the mound if you need me to. So, I mean, I’ve always played every position. Growing up my dad had me play everywhere. That’s just something I’ve always done. So it’s kind of normal to me.”