Want to know how long Christian Vazquez has been around? On the day the Red Sox drafted him in 2008, Mike Lowell, Manny Ramirez, and J.D. Drew started a 7-1 victory over the Rays.
Also in Red Sox uniforms were utility infielder Alex Cora and backup catcher Kevin Cash. On Wednesday, those two men occupied opposite dugouts as managers of the Red Sox and Rays, respectively, and let's just say one of them was a lot happier about Vazquez's presence than the other.
Just hours after blasting a game-tying home run in the ninth inning of a thrilling 6-5 victory, Vazquez started at DH and continued torturing Tampa with a two-run shot that gave the Red Sox a 3-1 lead en route to a 9-2 victory that evened their record at 3-3 and offered another reminder that Vazquez might just be one of the best all-around catchers in baseball.
Two years after slamming a career-high 23 homers and one after posting an .801 OPS, Vazquez has delivered his best start yet. He's hitting .421 with a pair of homers and four RBIs, with all of that damage coming over the past three days vs. the defending American League champs.
"I'm feeling good," Vazquez said. "I'm feeling sexy at the plate."
Drafted as a defender and developed because of his arm, Vazquez is swinging the bat like someone who should be compared to All-Stars J.T. Realmuto of the Phillies and Buster Posey of the Giants.
"When I see how people rank catchers, outside of our world, he's the closest thing to a complete package," said manager Alex Cora. "He's swinging the bat the last two years. Defensively we know what he can do, but nobody gives him the recognition. It's not that he needs it, but I do believe that he's one of the top catchers in the league."
Vazquez is a throwback, too. Whereas most catchers have their workloads closely monitored, he expects to play every single day. Not even a freak injury at the end of spring training when a stray throw shattered his sunglasses and left him with a half moon of stitches under one eye could keep him out of the Opening Day lineup.
As it is, Cora didn't even give him Wednesday off, instead starting him at designated hitter to take advantage of his success vs. left-handers, which paid off when he launched a fourth-inning Ryan Yarbrough offering into the Monster seats.
"He's one of the toughest ones in that clubhouse," Cora said. "He wants to play every day. That catching position is a tough one. He knows it, but we had no doubt as far as him performing, because his swing is very simple. It was just a matter of stamina. He hadn't caught for a week (after the eye injury). We have to take care of him."
Vazquez is signed through this season and the club holds a $7 million option for 2022 that will be a no-brainer to exercise if he keeps playing like this. It's worth noting that he started quickly last year, too, with four home runs in his first five games, before his bat basically went into hibernation while he swung for the fences.
Not until the final three weeks did he regain his early-season form, but there's every reason to believe he learned his lesson.
That means that at age 30, nearly 13 years after the Red Sox selected him in the ninth round out of Puerto Rico, he may just be ready to become a star.
"I'm very proud of him because he puts in the work," Cora said. "You talk about his weight, he's a lot lighter now. He worked on his swing the last three years. He buys Rapsodo and a batting cage and all that. He just wants to be one of the best. It's not about recognition. It's about putting in work. I'm very happy that he's off to a great start.
"Obviously last year was a 60-game season, but it was a good one. What he did two years ago was amazing and hopefully he can continue doing that."