The Red Sox have lost their starting catcher again. Tommy Layne's fastball which caught first Mark Teixeira and then Ryan Hanigan has fractured the latter's right little finger. The injury will apparently require surgery, leaving the Red Sox to call up top prospect Blake Swihart from Triple-A Pawtucket.
Hanigan was not, of course, even supposed to be the starting catcher this year. That job was supposed to belong to Christian Vazquez. But Tommy John surgery claimed his 2015 season, leaving Hanigan to partner with a late acquisition in Sandy Leon, pushing Humberto Quintero down to Pawtucket as depth.
Now that depth is needed, but a duo of Quintero and Leon leaves a lot to be desired. Neither one can hit a lick, and while the Red Sox lineup is pretty strong 1-through-8, that doesn't mean the team wants to simply have a black hole in the no. 9 spot game in and game out.
So that's led them to a big decision: it's Blake Swihart time.
Sounds like #RedSox will, in fact, call up Blake Swihart.— Scott Lauber (@ScottLauber) May 2, 2015
Swihart, 23, is off to a solid start in Pawtucket, hitting .338/.392/.382. His season started much like his last, with a torrid hitting streak devoid of walks transitioning quickly into a more balanced approach when the hits stopped falling quite so regularly. Whereas it took him a long time to make that change in 2014, however, this time it happened in the span of about four games. He was hitting .406 headed into April 19th, then fell to .304 with a 1-for-14 run. To that point, he had drawn zero walks.
Since then, Swihart has drawn six of them and, what's more, gone 9-for-22 in the process. There's been no sign of the power he's displayed throughout his career, but it's not really in question whether or not he can hit the ball with authority. He has made tremendous defensive strides since entering the system, to the point where his play behind the plate is now an asset. He's the ideal replacement candidate.
...Except that he's played all of 36 games in Pawtucket. Make no mistake, this is a fast callup at the one position the Red Sox love to take their time with. Swihart will now have to adjust to major league pitching at the same time as he learns his pitchers' tendencies. It's a tall order, even for one of the game's best prospects.
This could be the start of a great career, or it could be a disaster. But it's the route the Red Sox have chosen coming out of a terrible situation thanks to two long-term injuries at the game's scarcest position. For better or for worse, the Swihart era begins now.