FORT MYERS, Fla. -- When one of the Magnificent Molina Brothers extols your virtues, you must be doing something right.
Indeed, Christian Vazquez, the 23-year-old catcher who last spring played for Double-A Portland, appears on an accelerated path to the big leagues. One National League scout said this week he would take Vazquez right now on his defensive prowess alone and would live with whatever struggles he might have at the plate. He first showed off his arm in big league camp last spring, and this spring he has thrown out all 11 runners who have attempted to run on him, according to Red Sox manager John Farrell.
Farrell says Vazquez's offense is coming.
“What’s impressive to me is the progress he’s making with the bat,’’ Farrell said the other day. “There’s more strength in his swing; there’s more solid impact. He drove the ball well to right-center field, and then there was the home run the other day [against Boston College]. When you look at the numbers [.289 AVG/.376 OBP/.395 SLG/.771 OPS], it’s heading in the right direction. He’s on a very good path.”
Vazquez spoke Tuesday about how Rays catcher Jose Molina, a fellow Puerto Rican, has offered assistance on that path.
“We worked out, long-tossed and talked a lot -- good things,’’ Vazquez said. “He’s helped me calling games, read swings, helped me to trust yourself and have good communication with the pitchers -- especially veterans like Lester and Lackey, but with everybody.
“I love to listen to him because he’s a veteran guy. He knows a lot. That’s good for me. I’m a young player and I want to learn a lot.’’
Molina, 38, is entering his 15th season in the big leagues.
“I can’t say we went to the bullpen and practiced a lot,’’ Molina said, “but what we practiced was a lot of mind stuff, what he could retain and use. A lot of work ethic, work habits, how to spot different situations, a lot of little things that can help.
“Pretty much we were on the mindset of keeping his head up, knowing he was just a step away from the big leagues and with his talent, it could be any time. He’s got to take advantage of that situation because that situation is going to come only once and you don’t want to let it go.’’
Molina said he has seen Vazquez only a handful of times, including a couple of times catching winter ball in Puerto Rico.
“But when you hear a guy’s name, there’s a reason, right?’’ he said. “He’s doing something good and doing something right. One of my things is to keep continuing that. Don’t go backwards -- keep moving forward, be even better.’’
Sox catcher David Ross, who is known for his arm, told Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald that Vazquez reminds him of Yadier Molina, Jose’s younger brother, who is considered the best defensive catcher in the game. Puerto Rico has a tradition of producing great catchers, including Benito Santiago, Sandy Alomar Jr., Pudge Rodriguez, Jorge Posada, Javy Lopez and the Molina brothers (Jose, Yadier and Bengie).
Jose Molina said he hasn’t seen enough of Vazquez to say whether the comparison is valid: “He’s following my brother, so he’s following the best catcher in the game right now; so he’s a good guy to follow. I wish I was younger, so I could follow him too. That’s the best example he can follow, my brother.’’
Molina acknowledged talking with Vazquez about the importance of communicating with the pitcher.
“I always say communicating with the pitcher is the most important thing,’’ he said. “It’s like [with] your brother, with my brothers. I know everything about my brothers. They know everything about me.
“I love my pitchers; they are my brothers. I don’t have my brothers close, so they are my closest brothers. I have learned everything about them, [so when they are doing something wrong], I can pass the message to them.’’
Molina said he enjoys mentoring, but the real reward is seeing a player such as Vazquez make it.
“The best thing you see is these guys making strides, getting better and better, and someday they will be here,’’ Molina said. “That’s the best thing.’’