Red Sox

Vazquez to seek Dr. James Andrews on elbow ailment

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Vazquez to seek Dr. James Andrews on elbow ailment

FORT MYERS, Fla. - Catcher Christian Vazquez, sidelined with an ailing elbow, will seek a second opinion from Dr. James Andrews in Pensacola Wednesday, yet another signal that Vazquez is dealing with a serious injury that could require season-ending surgery.

"I don't know about the severity of it right now,'' said manager John Farrell. "We know there have been findings on it, based on the MRI, and I think anytime the elbow is talked about, you go to someone who's probably the source in our industry - and that's Dr. Andrews - to take a further look at this.''

Whether Vazquez requires Tommy John surgery - a worst-case scenario - or simply needs time to rehab, it's clear he won't be part of the Opening Day roster and the Sox need to decide, over the next week, who their No. 2 catcher will be behind starter Ryan Hanigan.

 ”We're focused on the internal options (Humberto Quintero and Blake Swihart), as I said yesterday,'' said John Farrell. "Both guys are going to catch (in the final week in Florida). One's on the (40-man) roster (Swihart), one's not on the roster (Quintero). There's a number of factors that will come into this.

"But setting the roster (issue) aside, you look at the way guys are handling pitchers in the moment, their game-calling, their defensive abilities. Nothing will be omitted when we talk about how we're going to start the season with the catcher in addition to Ryan Hanigan.''

Quintero has spent parts of 12 seasons in the big leagues with a half-dozen different organizations and profiles as the quintessential journeyman backup catcher. He's thought to be a good handler of pitchers and a solid catch-and-throw guy, though he offers little in the way of offense, with a lifetime .234 average and a career OPS of .594.

Swihart is regarded as the Red Sox' top position player prospect - an athletic switch-hitting catcher who has shown immense improvement behind the plate over the last two seasons.

But Swihart has played just 18 games above Double A.

"(Swihart) has looked fine,'' said Farrell. "The other day, he and Clay (Buchholz) were working through some things. That was clear. But I think as we've gotten though camp, Blake has had an opportunity to handle some of the pitchers we have here. He's worked diligently on some pitches in certain areas of  the strike zone where some (improved) receiving and framing polishing could take place and that's ongoing. 

"He's a good-looking player. He's very athletic. He can swing the bat. He throws very well. But we're going to take every chance and every opportunity to see things through.''

Farrell also praised Swihart's leadership skills to date.

"He's learning the pitchers, first and foremost,'' said Farrell. "I haven't seen him enough in games to determine where he would rank on a leadership scale. But he's a smart kid. He's got good retention. I think he's a very quick study. THat's what he's shown here. (Leadership is) not a detriment, I can say that.''

Swihart would rank the definite edge in terms of offense, but given that this is the backup catcher spot, that might not be a priority for the organization.

"I think it's more about leading the pitcher's at this point,'' said Farrell. "I guess the best way to describe it is, there's not going to be one thing that we hang our hat on when it comes to making this decision.

"My view is that, in our lineup, our catcher was going to hit ninth, no matter who they are. That's a sign of the strength of the rest of the lineup. Again, all of these things will be discussed and we'll come to the decision that's best for us right now.''

Another issue might be that the Sox might not want to interrupt Swihart's development by having him play just twice a week in the big leagues behind Hanigan.

But Farrell dismissed that as a factor.

"We're about winning games,'' he said. "We'll put the best team on the field.''

Red Sox' Xander Bogaerts, Mookie Betts and Rafael Devers get some MVP recognition in AL voting

Red Sox' Xander Bogaerts, Mookie Betts and Rafael Devers get some MVP recognition in AL voting

In a disappointing season for the Boston Red Sox, the productive years of Xander Bogaerts, Mookie Betts and Rafael Devers did warrant some MVP recognition.

Bogaerts finished fifth in the American League MVP voting (The Angels' Mike Trout was your winner for the third time in six years), Betts, who won the award a year ago, was eighth and Devers 12th in the voting by the Baseball Writers Association of America.

Bogaerts hit .309 with 33 homers, 52 doubles and 117 RBI; Devers .311, 32 HR, 54 doubles and 115 RBI. They became the first teammates to ever reach the 30-homer/50-doubles mark in the same season. The numbers for Betts (.295, 30 HR, 80 RBI), the subject of trade rumors this offseason, were considered by many to be a down year for him.

The Dodgers' Cody Bellinger was voted National League MVP.

Justin Long, the Sox Senior Manager of Media Relations and Baseball Information, points out that having three players in the top 12 is the best showing for the Red Sox since 2011:    

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There's only one way Astros sign-stealing story blows back on Red Sox, and we're not there yet

There's only one way Astros sign-stealing story blows back on Red Sox, and we're not there yet

Let's say for the sake of argument that Alex Cora played the role of lead drummer when the 2017 Astros were stealing signs like a merry band of trash-can pounding subway buskers.

So what?

That's an institutional crime and Houston should pay the price, not a former bench coach. Think of it like Deflategate. The Patriots deserved their punishment, but taking Tom Brady within a whisker of the Supreme Court was overkill.

Here's where things get dicey. What if Cora imported some of Houston's less savory tactics to Boston, a team that has already been censured by MLB — under former manager John Farrell, to be fair — for using Apple watches to help steal signs in 2017?

Because Cora and bullpen coach Craig Bjornson were both members of that compromised Astros staff, and because the arms race to gain even a tiny edge can very easily blur the line between gamesmanship and fraud, the only way this story truly becomes relevant to the Red Sox is if an MLB investigation reveals that Boston has enacted some of Houston's worst practices over the last two seasons.

There's no evidence that the Red Sox have deployed technology with similar nefariousness, and the numbers under Cora don't reveal any wild home-road splits. Since 2013, for instance, the Red Sox have outperformed their road OPS at Fenway Park by anywhere from 3.34 percent (2014) to 17.65 percent (2015). Cora's two Red Sox clubs fall in the middle of that range — 9.66 percent in 2018 and 7.33 percent last year.

In conversations with multiple executives at this week's GM meetings in Scottsdale, Ariz., one theme emerged consistently — the Astros don't consider their actions cheating, because they believe they live in a world where Everybody is Doing It, and if they happen to be better at finding those edges at the margins, that's not their problem. Don't hate 'em 'cuz you ain't 'em, so to speak.

This issue has burst into the public eye because The Athletic has broken a series of stories about the Astros stealing signs. Former Astros reporter Evan Drellich and national writer Ken Rosenthal first reported that the Astros stole signs in 2017 by positioning a center field camera on the opposing catcher, connecting it to a monitor outside the dugout, and banging on a trash can in real time to warn the hitter when a breaking ball was coming.

The Athletic followed up on Wednesday night with a report that Cora and Mets manager Carlos Beltran — Houston's DH in 2017 — will also be summoned as part of MLB's investigation. ESPN added that the league has already spoken to Bjornson, who served as Houston's bullpen coach in 2017.

While the involvement of Cora and Bjornson makes this tangentially a Red Sox story, for the time being it's just an Astros story. That will change if MLB determines the ex-Astros didn't want to fall behind their former team in the information race after they arrived in Boston, but so far there's no indication that they're under suspicion.

Making all of this murkier is Cora's well-earned reputation for sign stealing and pitch tipping. He was considered one of the best in the game at these very particular skills as a player, and he hasn't lost his touch as a manager. Of course, there's a big difference between noting glove placement on a fastball and cracking opposing signals on a high def monitor over the toilet next to the dugout.

So let the Astros take the heat on this one, at least for now. If something changes, we can reconvene.

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