Christian Vazquez will likely miss Opening Day and possibly much more after an MRI on the catcher's injured elbow revealed..."something."
That's all we know right now. The Sox are being purposefully vague about the injury, and that's rarely a good sign. Given that John Farrell has already all but ruled him out for Opening Day, however, we can surmise that this is not some minor injury that can just be ignored.
Vazquez is seeking a second opinon for now, but the reality is that the Red Sox will very likely have to look to the backups for at least a little while to start the season. There's both bad news and good news there.
The bad news: the Red Sox entire rotation depends on Christian Vazquez. Or at least someone like him. This is not a rotation with overpowering pitchers who can simply outclass opposing batters. They're going to be aiming low in the zone, trying to put batters into bad counts or get them to ground out early. Christian Vazquez facilitates a lot of that not only through his game calling skills, which would hopefully keep a consistent gameplan from venturing into the undesirable realm of predictable, but also through his excellent pitch framing abilities, which would keep those low strikes as strikes, and add a few undeserved ones in besides.
The good news: they have another catcher who is quite good at that. Ryan Hanigan is a framing specialist himself, and that's likely no small part of why the Red Sox went after him in the offseason. The question is just how many games Hanigan can catch, and who they pair him with in Vazquez' absence. Hanigan has never started 100 games in a season, after all, and at 34 is not in the best position to see a dramatic increase in playing time.
That leaves a lot riding on one or both of Humberto Quintero and, yes, Blake Swihart. If there's only a short layoff for Vazquez, then Quintero will likely be called on to cover the gap. But if Vazquez is down for an extended period of time, Boston's top catching prospect's debut may well come earlier than anticipated. It wouldn't be a completely unreasonable leap fo Swihart, who at least saw a month in Pawtucket at the end of 2014, but the Red Sox would rather he play a lot more than 18 games there before making the biggest jump of them all.
With Swihart's defense having made leaps and bounds since his early days in the system, he should, like Hanigan, also prove an apt defensive fill-in for Vazquez. But there's no replacing Vazquez' defense outright. He's too good behind the plate for that, and chances are the Red Sox will feel the sting of this loss a lot more than most would expect given that we're talking about a sophomore catcher without much of a bat. For now, all we can do is hope he's back in action in a hurry.