Red Sox: Blake Swihart could see time at second base
By Sean Penney
Boston Red Sox manager Alex Cora mentioned Blake Swihart as a candidate to see time at second base this season despite that he’s never played the position.
Blake Swihart has struggled to establish himself as a catcher in the big leagues. That doesn’t mean that the Boston Red Sox have given up on finding a role for him.
Alex Cora was asked about Swihart when he met with the media Tuesday. The new manager raved about Swihart’s athleticism and how the team can utilize his versatility. While he’s expected to provide depth at catcher, Cora envisions Swihart rotating through several positions – including second base.
With an uncertain timetable for Dustin Pedroia‘s return from knee surgery, the Red Sox may need someone to step in at second base to start the season. Cora stated that he sees Swihart on the 25-man roster, which comes as no surprise given that the 25-year old is out of minor league options. When pressed on the subject, Cora revealed that Swihart could be in the mix of second base options.
This is noteworthy considering Swihart has never played the infield in his major league career. He has mostly been behind the plate, although the team experimented with a transition to left field in 2016 before a collision with a wall cut his season short. Swihart has moved around to a few different positions in the minors and Winter Ball but learning to play second base would be a new challenge.
Cora mentioned that Swihart has started taking ground balls to prepare for any infield role the team may ask of him.
"“The ground ball part, (Swihart) asked where he should take ground balls,” said Cora. “It doesn’t matter. Go to one spot. I just want you to move your feet, and we’ll go from there. We’re going to challenge him and he’s up to the challenge.”"
He admits that he hasn’t had the chance to work with Swihart on the field. Yet everything Cora has heard about him suggests he’s capable of handling multiple positions. The manager recognizes the potential in Swihart’s bat. There may not be an everyday spot open for him but he hopes Swihart’s versatility can get him in the lineup. He needs some semblance fo regular at-bats in order to progress as a hitter. If the minor leagues are no longer an option then Cora will have to be creative.
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Swihart owns a .270/.330/.383 slash line over 109 career major league games. Those numbers won’t dazzle you but he has a higher offensive ceiling than the other options on Boston’s bench. His bat profiles better at catcher than any other single position. If Swihart can’t stick behind the plate then he can offset that dip in value with his versatility.
The reps at second base may be limited with Pedroia on the mend. Swihart will also face competition from infielders with more experienced gloves. We may not see Swihart man the position at all in the regular season. That doesn’t mean there isn’t a benefit to testing him this spring.
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Credit Cora for thinking outside the box to find ways to increase Swihart’s value and potential for playing time. It may not pan out but they have nothing to lose by experimenting with the option in camp.