Boston Red Sox catcher Christian Vazquez was concerned about some pain that he was feeling in his recovering elbow, but he and Red Sox Nation had good news.
From Fort Myers, Florida, Rob Bradford from WEEI.com reported that “Vazquez was forced to draw back somewhat after experiencing some discomfort in the surgically-repaired right elbow a few days ago.”
Understandably, coming off of Tommy John surgery can be a scary thing for anyone, let alone a young catcher who has his entire future resting on the status of his throwing elbow. Vazquez said, “It was the first time I felt something. It was a little scary because it was the first time I had been sore since after the surgery. I called quick to the trainer.”
As it turned out, the medical staff told him that it was just “muscle and scar tissue.”
The 25-year-old native of Puerto Rico was much relieved to hear the news, and deservedly so. After being drafted by the Red Sox in 2008 in the ninth round, Vazquez made his MLB debut in 2014. He hit a slash line of .240/.308/.309 with a home run and 20 RBIs in 55 games, but he was more impressive with his glove. Vazquez threw out 15 baserunners in 29 stealing attempts, helping him to earn a .987 fielding percentage.
To put that last fact into perspective, let’s look at a few of the top catchers in the game in the same year. Yadier Molina threw out 21 baserunners out of 44 attempts in 107 games. Russell Martin, playing at the time for the Pittsburgh Pirates, threw out 37 baserunners, the most of any catcher that year, but he also allowed 59 stolen bases in 107 games. Based solely on the amount of games that the other two catchers had played, Vazquez was on pace to throw out 29 baserunners that year, if the variables stayed consistent. Pretty impressive for a rookie.
Now, there’s no accounting for the possibilities that Vazquez could have tired out or that veteran basestealers would have figured him out enough to steal more bases on him than they did before. However, what can be determined is that a big part of the young man’s game was his throwing arm, which got injured and kept him out of the 2015 season.
For there to be any kind of pain in his elbow at this point in time, Vazquez must have been worried.
And, that’s not even considering the fact that Blake Swihart took over for him when he was out. The switch-hitting youngster from Texas hit a slash line of .274/.319/.392 with five home runs and 31 RBIs in 84 games in 2015. While Swihart only caught 16 basestealers in 57 attempts, his .995 fielding percentage was also pretty impressive.
The 23-year-old Swihart has the jump on Vazquez by two years left to grow as a player, a bat that made more of an impact, and a year of getting to know the Red Sox starting rotation. He lived through Rick Porcello‘s struggles, Clay Buchholz‘s injuries, Joe Kelly‘s 8-0 record to finish the season, and Eduardo Rodriguez‘s break-out start to his career. Almost all of the pitchers have had more time to work with him than Vazquez, making them more familiar with Swihart’s ways of handling things behind the plate.
Vazquez can overcome all of that if he outplays his counterpart, which would make any pain in his elbow all the more scary. Vazquez is on the cusp of a crossroads. His career can take many turns before the 2016 season is finished. He could be the starter and he could also be traded, riding the pine as a backup, or put back into the minors. Vazquez can’t afford to get injured again. He will have to play through the pain, work through the scar tissue, and perform at the peak of his potential if he is to take back his place behind the plate as the starting catcher for the Red Sox.
With all of that on your mind, wouldn’t you be a bit scared too?