Speaking at the general manager meetings on Monday, Dave Dombrowski said that the Red Sox are moving Blake Swihart back behind the plate to start the 2017 season.
Swihart had been a catcher for his entire professional career before the early months of 2016, when the small sample size success of Christian Vazquez combined with an even smaller sample size of defensive issues from Swihart to push him into left field in Triple-A and then eventually the majors. In fairness, the experiment had some success, with the Sox finding some productivity in the corner for a couple weeks before the inexperienced Swihart went crashing into the wall in foul territory, leaving him out for the rest of the season.
The Sox did eventually find some success both behind the plate and in left field courtesy of Sandy Leon and Andrew Benintendi respectively, and both of them are set to reprise their roles in 2017. Dombrowski made it clear that Leon is the starting catcher, and that Vazquez is still in the mix, with the Sox considering his seeing the field on a regular basis the most important part of his 2016 over any production (or lack thereof).
So where does that leave Swihart? Likely enough it leaves him in Triple-A to start the season. But that's not so bad. The Red Sox can take what time they need to figure out how Sandy Leon and Christian Vazquez--two players without options--fit into things. If Leon proves that 2016 was no fluke and Christian Vazquez proves a viable option, well, that's not exactly a scenario to fret over. In the more likely scenario where one or both positions ends up being vulnerable, Swihart can make the trip up I-95.
Ultimately, the question of who breaks camp where only matters so much. What's more important by half is the direction the organization intends to take with Swihart's ongoing development. If they stuck him in left, they would be dramatically limiting his potential value not only to a Red Sox team with three starting outfielders locked in for at least the next few years, but also any team that might be interested in trading for him should Leon and Vazquez stick. As a catcher, Swihart's bat already makes him a worthwhile commodity. As an outfielder, however, he'll have to make some decent leaps to stick as anything more than a third starter for a second division team.
Whether or not Blake Swihart ever locks up the starting role in Boston remains to be seen. For now, though, he's at least back on a path with a real future. That's where one of Boston's (graduated) top prospects belongs, not aspiring to a bench role.