BOSTON -- He has been here less than three weeks, but Red Sox rookie catcher Christian Vazquez already received this stunning endorsement from former Sox outfielder Gabe Kapler, now a contributor for Fox Sports.
Kapler tweeted this during Sunday’s 3-2 Red Sox win over the Tampa Bay Rays:
No exaggeration, Vasquez is as good a receiver as anyone in baseball. Has been the highlight of this game.
— gabe kapler (@gabekapler) July 27, 2014
Kapler is not one for spouting opinions idly. He is a dedicated student of the game (remember, he managed one summer in the minors for the Sox), is well versed in the new analytics and is in a small class of former players (ESPN’s Doug Glanville is another) who write with considerable insight and skill.
For Kapler to direct such praise toward Vazquez when Yadier Molina, though injured, is still employed by the St. Louis Cardinals, speaks to the regard in which he holds the 23-year-old native of Bayamon, Puerto Rico.
Vazquez’s powerful throwing arm is as good as advertised -- his first-inning peg to second base obliterated Ben Zobrist on an attempted steal Sunday -- but he also has impressed manager John Farrell and others with his receiving, pitch framing, game-calling and supremely confident interaction with the team’s pitchers.
“What’s been most impressive to me is Christian’s willingness to take trips to the mound, regardless of who’s on the mound,” manager John Farrell said last week in Toronto, where he cited the way Vazquez worked with veteran John Lackey, an imposing personality.
“He’s been very impressive on the receiving end of things.”
Vazquez has arrived ahead of schedule -- the Sox had signed A.J. Pierzynski to serve as a one-year bridge to next season -- and creates a fascinating decision in the very near future. Rising rapidly in the system is Blake Swihart, a switch-hitting catcher and former No. 1 draft pick who has drawn raves from every scout who has tracked him on his rise to Double-A Portland. Swihart is a terrific athlete, is regarded as a better hitter than Vazquez, and considered on a par, or very close to it, defensively.
It should make for great competition for no later than the 2016 season, and Swihart could well accelerate the timeline on that.
Veteran catcher David Ross has been bothered by plantar fasciitis in his right foot, aggravated by playing on turf in Toronto. He felt much better after sitting out a game against the Blue Jays and caught Jon Lester on Friday night, but with the Sox playing again on turf, sat out the rest of the series in Tropicana Field.
Ross is expected to be back in the lineup against the Blue Jays on Monday night, but Vazquez will see plenty of playing time during this week’s homestand.