Boston Red Sox catcher Blake Swihart: ‘I’m not trying to hit home runs’


Blake Swihart powered the Boston Red Sox to a win over the New York Yankees Tuesday night with a pair of home runs, giving the young catcher three homers in the span of three days. Prior to that he had only gone deep twice since his debut in early May. So where did this sudden power surge come from?

Don’t get used to it. While Swihart has always been projected as a great hitter, power has never been a significant part of his game. Even before he made it to the big leagues, Swihart had recorded only 22 career home runs over 1,344 plate appearances during parts of five minor league seasons. Now suddenly he’s the youngest Red Sox catcher with a multi-home run game since Mike Ryan in 1965.

As impressive as that accomplishment is, Swihart is quick to point out that he had a little help from the short porch in Yankee Stadium’s right field.

"“I don’t know if those balls are home runs anywhere else but here,” Swihart told the Boston Herald’s Jason Mastrodonato. “I’m not trying to hit home runs.”"

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Swihart may not be swinging for the fences every time he steps to the plate, but the 23-year old is still developing some power. After slugging a mere .323 with one homer and 9 extra-base hits before the break, he’s up to a .457 slugging percentage, 4 home runs and 14 extra-base hits in the second half.

The power will naturally develop as Swihart gets older and gains more experience against big league pitching, but Red Sox hitting coach Chili Davis doesn’t want his rookie catcher aiming to hit home runs.

"“No, I’m not going to even talk about home runs with him,” Davis told the Herald. “You start talking home runs with him, he starts swinging for them and he starts popping the damn ball up. Keep the ball on the line. He’s an average hitter.”"

Of course by “average hitter,” Davis means that Swihart will hit for a high batting average, not that he’s a mediocre hitter. After a slow start when he was still getting his feet wet at this level, Swihart has gone on to hit .305 over his last 151 at-bats since the break.

"“From the time you walk into spring training and watch him train and watch him work out, he just has a natural swing,” explains Davis. “For him, it’s so natural you just have to contain it. And he’s going to have to stay focused on line drives because he thinks he can hit everything.”"

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What Davis wants Swihart to avoid is chasing bad pitches that he thinks he can hit, which is often the result when hitters try too hard to hit home runs. The Red Sox know Swihart will hit, but they want his focus to be on driving the ball into the gap and hitting to all fields.

Swihart may one day develop into a 20-home run hitter, which given his propensity to hit for a high average would make him one of the best hitters at his position in the game. Those are the lofty expectations that the Red Sox have for his future, but they can’t allow him to alter his swing to chase home runs at the expense of the smooth swing that has made him such a great hitter in his brief career.

The recent power surge this week may be a sign of things to come for Swihart, but it’s a brief glimpse at what may come far down the line, rather than what we should expect from him now.