Blake Swihart started the season behind the plate for the Red Sox, but only lasted six games before he was optioned back down to Triple-A to work on his defense. During a 29-game stint in Pawtucket, Swihart didn't necessarily excel, accumulating just a .655 OPS, though he did post a .344 OBP and expanded his versatility by making starts in left field. The 24-year-old was recalled after Brock Holt was placed on the disabled list, starting all 13 games he played in left field. The switch-hitter slashed .258/.365/.355 in 19 games and 79 plate appearances throughout 2016, bringing his major league totals to .271/.321/.386 in 383 plate appearances. His season ended early after he underwent successful surgery on his left ankle in August, although it shouldn't effect his spring training status. At this point, based on the Red Sox's depth at catcher and left field, it is unlikely that Swihart will be anything more than a part-time player regardless of his position.
Swihart has been optioned to Triple-A Pawtucket, Christopher Smith of MassLive.com reports. Up until Sunday, manager John Farrell said the catching situation was still up in the air, but the expected decision came down Monday. Swihart will open the season in the minors while the Red Sox roll with Sandy Leon and Christian Vazquez behind the dish.
Swihart, who is expected to start the season at Triple-A Pawtucket, could still snag a roster spot, according to manager John Farrell, Nick Cafardo of The Boston Globe reports. "We haven't made a final decision as of yet," Farrell said. "We're targeting the early part of this coming week to make that call. [Swihart's] had a strong camp." Swihart is hitting .325, much better than Christian Vazquez (.231) and Sandy Leon (.261), though Farrell added that the final 25-man roster "can't be based solely on batting average." That means Swihart still has some work to do defensively, and because he has minor league options remaining, he'll perform that work in Pawtucket. Still, it's interesting that Farrell would make this statement. Perhaps the manager said it to motivate Leon and Vazquez.
Swihart is hitting .318 (7-for-22) over nine spring games. As the only catcher on Boston's 40-man roster with minor league options, it's almost certain Swihart will open the season at Triple-A Pawtucket, but he's a better hitter than either Sandy Leon (.143 this spring) or Christian Vazquez (.176). Unfortunately, Swihart's defense lags behind those two. If the Red Sox are getting a sub-.200 average from the Leon/Vazquez tandem, the urge will be strong within manager John Farrell to call up Swihart.
Swihart caught three innings during Thursday's exhibition game against Northeastern University and reported no issues with throws back to the pitcher, Christopher Smith of MassLive.com reports. This was Swihart's first game action in over eight months. A video surfaced last week, showing Swihart overthrowing some pitchers, throwing wide, and double-clutching at times. Swihart feels the issue was overblown and some of it had to do with getting back in a groove after being away catching for so long. Other than his throws back to the pitcher, he said his receiving was "really good," noting he made a few blocks on wayward pitches while manager John Farrell was pleased with Swihart's framing. No matter how much skill he shows behind the plate, Swihart is still expected to start the season at Triple-A Pawtucket.
Swihart's return throws to pitchers were much better Sunday, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe reports. Swihart raised some eyebrows Saturday when his throws back to the pitcher were way off the mark, but his throws Sunday were much harder and he didn't misfire at all. The initial concern was the he could be developing some sort of mental block -- particularly coming off last season when his development time took a hit when the Red Sox moved him to left field before he suffered a season-ending ankle injury. "It's really not going to be big deal," Swihart said. "The only tough part was getting back there for the first time in a long while with live pitching." Swihart is expected to open the season at Triple-A Pawtucket to get back to an everyday routine behind the plate.