Red Sox

Don't forget about Blake Swihart, who says he's fully healthy

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Don't forget about Blake Swihart, who says he's fully healthy

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.”

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The Baseball Show Podcast: J.D. Martinez on pace for monster season

The Baseball Show Podcast: J.D. Martinez on pace for monster season

Lou Merloni and Red Sox insider Evan Drellich debate and discuss some of the week's biggest Red Sox topics, presented by Twin River Casino. . .

0:22 - With a pair of homers on Sunday vs. the Orioles, J.D. Martinez continued his hot streak and is on pace to surpass the team's expectations of him. Lou and Evan discuss Martinez's power to all fields and how his hitting approach has had a positive impact on his teammates.

6:44 - Lou and Evan break down the ugly situations for Carson Smith, Jackie Bradley Jr. and Blake Swihart and discuss what the club can do to deal with the struggles of all three players.

13:40 - Evan and Lou go around the horn and look at a few headlines from around the league: Robinson Cano's 80-game suspension, the Cubs interest in Manny Machado and Dustin Pedroia's nearing return to the Red Sox.

CLICK HERE TO SUBSCRIBE

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J.D. Martinez's 2 vastly different HRs lead Red Sox past O's

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AP Photo

J.D. Martinez's 2 vastly different HRs lead Red Sox past O's

BOSTON -- J.D. Martinez took plenty of ribbing in the dugout after slicing a short home run inside the Pesky Pole at Fenway Park.

A few innings later, he showed his teammates some serious power.

Martinez hit two vastly different drives for his first multihomer game with Boston, powering Eduardo Rodriguez and the Red Sox to a rare 13-hit shutout in a 5-0 victory over the Baltimore Orioles on Sunday.

It was the most hits Boston has allowed in a shutout since at least 1908, the team said.

Signed to a $110 million, five-year deal as a free agent in February, the 30-year-old Martinez curled his first home run an estimated 324 feet around the right-field foul pole. He hammered his second - projected at 443 feet - to the deepest part of the ballpark, beyond the center-field triangle, for his 15th of the season.

"They were making me laugh," Martinez said, standing in the middle of the clubhouse with a smile on his face. "I said, `I've got to get even for some of the ones I hit in April when it was cold out and I thought I crushed some and they weren't even going anywhere.' They were definitely teasing me, but I'll take it."

When reminded about the distance of his second one, he said: "I let `em know."

Martinez drove in three runs, and Andrew Benintendi had a two-run homer among his three hits as the Red Sox won three of four in the series to improve to 6-1 against Baltimore this season.

Red Sox teammate Mookie Betts is impressed by Martinez's power to the opposite field.

"I don't know if anybody else can do what he does, so that's why he's one of a kind," Betts said. "He can also hit it out of any part of the park, too."

The Orioles got 13 hits but lost for the 15th time in 16 road games and dropped to a major league-worst 4-19 away from Camden Yards. Adam Jones had three of Baltimore's 12 singles.

"It's hard to get 13 hits and not score any runs," manager Buck Showalter said. "It's frustrating."

Rodriguez (4-1) scattered nine hits, struck out seven and didn't walk a batter in 5 2/3 innings.

Leading 1-0 in the fifth, the Red Sox chased David Hess (1-1) and took charge with four runs. Benintendi hit his shot into the Orioles' bullpen after Jackie Bradley Jr.doubled leading off.

Mitch Moreland doubled before Martinez belted his second homer of the day. His first came in the second inning.

Hess gave up five runs and eight hits over 4 2/3 innings in his second major league start.

"They definitely make some adjustments quick and you have to be able to adjust just as quick," he said. "That's a lineup that from top to bottom can do damage."

TRAINER'S ROOM

Orioles: 1B Chris Davis was out of the lineup because he's been struggling against left-handers, batting only .139 (5 for 36). ... Showalter said Jones exited in the seventh because he was sick.

Red Sox: Manager Alex Cora gave DH-1B Hanley Ramirez, in a 5-for-26 slump with no extra-base hits in his last six games, the day off "to work on a few things and keep him off his feet." ... Cora did the same for shortstop Xander Bogaerts, saying: "I think he only had like one off day since coming back from the DL." Bogaerts was sidelined April 9-27 with an injured left ankle. ... 2B Dustin Pedroia (recovering from offseason left knee surgery) was slated to be the DH in a rehab game at Triple-A Pawtucket.

LIKE AN INFIELDER

Red Sox president Dave Dombrowski played a foul ball that sailed into his box behind home plate on the bounce, picking it up from a tabletop in front of him. Next to him was former Red Sox right fielder Dwight Evans, who won eight Gold Gloves during his career.

DOUBLE THREAT

Martinez and Betts became the first pair of players in Red Sox history with 15 or more homers in the first 50 games of a season.

GREAT ENDINGS

The Red Sox improved to 14-1 in series finales.

UP NEXT

Orioles: RHP Andrew Cashner (1-5, 4.83 ERA) starts Monday in the opener of a three-game series at the Chicago White Sox.

Red Sox: After an off day, LHP Chris Sale (4-1, 2.29) pitches Tuesday at Tampa Bay. Sale has allowed three or fewer runs in all 10 of his starts.