Christian Vazquez to get second opinion on throwing elbow

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Boston Red Sox catcher Christian Vazquez will see renowned orthopedic surgeon Dr. James Andrews on Wednesday in Pensacola, Florida, for a second opinion on his throwing elbow.

It’s never a good sign when a player visits Andrews, who is credited with perfecting the Tommy John surgery that Dr. Frank Jobe pioneered in 1974, transferring a tendon from one body part to the elbow.

But Red Sox manager John Farrell declined on Sunday to speculate on how serious the injury is.

“I don’t know about the severity of it right now,” he said. “We know that there have been findings based on the MRI, and I think anytime the elbow is talked about, you go to someone who is probably the source in our industry -- and that’s Dr. Andrews -- to take a further look at this.”

Ryan Hanigan steps into the starting catcher role. The backup could be 35-year-old journeyman Humberto Quintero or Blake Swihart, who has played in just 18 games above Double-A but has hit .333 in 24 spring training at-bats this year and will start Sunday’s game against the Rays.

Farrell said he isn’t sure how Wednesday’s evaluation with Andrews will impact his decision, saying that the staff will “evaluate the guys behind the plate and take every piece of available information to make a decision later in the week.”

Quintero has hit just .234 in 1,346 career at-bats over 12 seasons, but the Red Sox lineup appears to be loaded offensively, especially with the offseason acquisitions of Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval. Will that have an impact on the decision?

“I think it’s more about leading the pitchers at this point,” Farrell said. “The best way I can describe it is that there’s not going to be one thing we hang our hat on when it comes to making this decision.

“My view is that in our lineup, our catcher was going to hit ninth no matter what, [no matter] who they are. I think that’s just a sign of the strength of the rest of the lineup. All these things will be discussed and we’ll come to the decision that works best for us right now.”

Vazquez has been favorably compared to St. Louis Cardinals All-Star Yadier Molina for his quick release and strong arm, and also for his ability to frame pitches and call a game. Swihart, who was converted from a third baseman and outfielder after the Red Sox drafted him in 2011, is baseball’s No. 1 catching prospect, but he’s still learning the nuances.

“He’s looked fine,” Farrell said. “The other day, he and Clay [pitcher Clay Buchholz] were working through some things. That was clear because there were opportunities to finish hitters off. Clay’s the seasoned guy, so you’d like to know that a pitcher of his experience level is going to have maybe some of the presence of mind to go to certain pitches and to expand the strike zone. He did such a great job of getting ahead in the count, and yet there were probably some attack plans that could have been used to finish some hitters off.

“But I think as we’ve gotten through camp, Blake has been able to handle the pitchers we have here. He’s worked diligently on some pitches in certain areas of the strike zone … more receiving and framing, polishing could take place, and that’s ongoing. So he’s a good-looking player, very athletic. He can swing the bat. He throws very well.

“He’s learning the pitcher, first and foremost. I haven’t seen him enough in games to say where he would rank on a leadership scale. He’s a smart kid. He’s got good retention. I think he’s a fairly quick study. That’s what he’s shown here, so that area is not a detriment. I can say that.”

Farrell, asked if he would have to commit to a certain amount of playing for Swihart if he took him over Quintero, said, “We’re about winning games, and we’ll put the best team on the field.”

Vazquez has not played in a game since March 13, when he threw out Yankees minor leaguer Tyler Wade attempting to steal a base, and said he felt discomfort in the elbow.