UPDATE: May 2, 2015 10:15 pm PT
Blake Swihart had a strong debut for the Boston Red Sox in their 4-2 loss to the New York Yankees Saturday. He showed his unusual athleticism for a catcher when he beat out a chopper for his first major league hit and later scored from first on a double by another rookie Mookie Betts.
That said Swihart still has a lot to learn about calling the game and working with pitchers. Ideally the Red Sox would have liked to have kept the 23-year-old in Triple-A but the injury to Ryan Hanigan Friday night made Swihart their best option at the position.
He’ll have to learn on the fly. As a catcher he is the only one who can see the entire field and helps control what happens in the game. That’s no easy task to learn in the majors but Swihart played a good game Saturday despite the loss, blocking few balls in the dirt. It appears he has a bit of a rough road ahead of him but he should be able to conquer it, given the way his MLB debut went.
Original Text: May 2, 2015 am PT
Boston Red Sox had already lost one catcher in 2015. Christian Vazquez went down with an elbow injury just prior to the regular season, an elbow injury that made him one of the growing number of position players that required Tommy John surgery, especially catchers. Last season the Baltimore Orioles lost catcher Matt Wieters to a similar injury. He is still recovering.
Now the Red Sox have lost veteran catcher Ryan Hanigan during a freak play that led to a broken knuckle on his right pinky finger. The injury will require surgery and Hannigan won’t be back for a significant amount of time.
During the play, Red Sox pitcher Tommy Layne actually hit New York Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira in the the hand. Teixiera was ok but the ball bounced off of him and hit Hanigan on his throwing hand breaking his finger. Yeah, I would definitely call that a freak accident. He was replaced in the game by Sandy Leon.
Hanigan had started 17 of Boston’s 23 games this season and had been hitting the ball well. Sox manager John Farrell said,
“We were starting to gain some traction,” Farrell said. “[Hanigan] has put up a lot of competitive at-bats, and we’ll miss his presence behind the plate. But we as a group have to be resilient at times like this.”
Like any team facing a long term injury, Hanigan had to be replaced and the organization decided to call up 23-year-old Blake Swihart from Triple-A Pawtucket. Swihart has been the Red Sox top and most prized prospect. He was hitting .338 in 18 games in April.
If you’ve heard of him before that means you’ve heard talk about the Red Sox having a good pitching staff but one that still lacked an ace. That ace could have been someone like, oh say, the Philadelphia Phillies’ left hander Cole Hamels but the Red Sox refused to give up a prospect like Swihart to Philadelphia or any other team.
Now Swihart will make his big league debut Saturday catching pitcher Wade Miley and batting in the eighth position.
“Dream come true” for Blake Swihart, who is in the lineup batting eighth.
— Jason Mastrodonato (@JMastrodonato) May 2, 2015
Justin Masterson, who pitched six innings on Friday didn’t know exactly what to say about Swihart. The pair have only worked together once during spring training. Masterson, not really knowing what to expect said,
“Is he ready? Who knows?” Masterson said.”Does he have to be? Yeah. I think he’s good defensively, good arm, a switch-hitter.”
However, if you asked the injured Vazquez what to expect from Swihart, and the two practically came up together in the organization being just one year apart, you get an answer that doesn’t involve any questions as to whether or not Swihart is ready.
“He’s a good player, man,” Vazquez said. “He’s got the skills and everything, man. He’s going to be good if they call him up, of course.”