Christian Vazquez progressing, eyes starting catching gig for Red Sox

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Christian Vazquez is progressing rapidly from Tommy John surgery and considers himself to be in a competition with Blake Swihart to be the starting catcher for the Boston Red Sox.

But for manager John Farrell, it’s all hypothetical right now. Vazquez has to first prove he’s healthy enough to handle the job’s demands.

“I don’t have all the information yet,” Farrell said in his media session Saturday. “I don’t think any of us do. Until he goes through games, reacts to game situations, he comes out from behind the plate with throws to second base with no hesitation. … And how does he come in the next day and feel physically? So we’ve got some steps to go through first.”

Vazquez, who had surgery April 2, played as a designated hitter in the Puerto Rican Winter League and reported to the Fenway South complex early to work on his throwing program. Oh, and he also lost 20 pounds, which he attributes to a diet of “broccoli -- a lot of broccoli.”

“To me, I look at the work he’s put in over the winter,” Farrell said. “He’s gotten himself into great shape. He’s following the throwing program. He’s excelling at that. That doesn’t change what our timeline is. We’ll get more information once the games begin, but we fully expect him to be in the mix or the rotation once the games begin.

“When we get to the midway point of the game schedule, we’ll get a better read on how many times per week he’ll be able to catch, just the recovery time needed. So we’re still gathering information every time he steps on the field.”

Said Vazquez: “My goal is, I want to start on Opening Day, like everybody does. I’m going to play where they put me, so I’m going to do my best. I’m going to put my 100 percent. If they put me in Triple-A, I’m going to be there playing.”

Swihart was rushed to the big leagues ahead of schedule last year and acquitted himself nicely, hitting .274 with 17 doubles in 288 at-bats. Down the stretch he was superb, hitting .330 over the final 29 games and showing improved maturity behind the plate.

“I’m going to go out there and try to win the starting job,” Swihart said. “Christian has been a good friend of mine forever. We’re part of the same team. Whatever happens to make this team better, that’s what happens.”

Other takeaways from Farrell’s media session:

  • Farrell said pitcher Koji Uehara was doing “better” in his recovery from a sinus infection, performed some activity inside and is expected to be “on the field soon.” Pitcher Edwin Escobar (flu) is still a few days away from getting back on the field.

  • Farrell had said third baseman Pablo Sandoval would arrive Saturday, but he hadn’t as of lunch time. Not a big deal, Farrell said.

    “Monday is the report date, so I’m confident he’ll be here,” he said. “If he’s not here today, if he reports later today, he’s going to be fine as far as his report time.”

  • On his evolving relationship with new president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski: “The more meeting settings we’re in, the more roster discussions that take place, different personnel discussions, there’s kind of a natural evolution to that relationship, and that’s just by virtue of the time of the year we’re in now. As we get closer to the spring training game schedule, there will be more conversations about individual players in our camp, regardless of if it’s a David Price or Williams Jerez -- guys at all ends of the spectrum. Once games begin, certainly that will take on another focal point and certainly another level of intensity once Opening Day nears.”

  • On what he’s learned about Dombrowski: “Very genuine, very consistent, has a true understanding of every player that’s in camp. Whether or not that’s a photographic memory, I don’t know. But geez, his recall is very impressive.”

  • On whether he will match new ace David Price with catcher Ryan Hanigan, who caught Price for part of 2014 in Tampa: “David went to Toronto, and I don’t think he suffered for not having Hanigan behind the plate. I don’t think (Russell) Martin's going to show up here, either. But we’re going to get those relationships furthered here as we get through camp.”