Christian Vazquez could be cleared to play as soon next week, according to the Globe's Peter Abraham, allowing him to make his return to action after missing the entirety of the 2015 season following Tommy John Surgery.
The return is conditional on a simulated game going well this coming weekend, and that's actually not a guarantee. It was just a week ago, after all, that Vazquez was worried about some discomfort in the elbow he had surgery on last year. All signs point to it being nothing more than run-of-the-mill soreness, but if Vazquez feels it again come Saturday, it's easy to imagine the Red Sox slowing down and making certain everything is at 100% before he gets back into a game.
It was brutal timing for Vazquez last year, finding himself sidelined just when there was a window just as a spot opened up on the major league roster for him. It seemed like the perfect window in the aftermath of Jarrod Saltalamacchia's tenure, but before the arrival of Blake Swihart
Now Swihart has 309 major league plate appearances under his belt, and is set to start over Ryan "more-than-just-a-backup" Hanigan. Catcher being the position that it is, it seems likely Vazquez will still get a chance to leave his mark before all is said and done in 2016. But his best opportunity to entrench himself ahead of the competition is behind him and he now faces an uphill battle for time in Boston rather than Pawtucket.
But for Vazquez, he's largely already got what he needs. His glove is strong enough to buy him major league playing time somewhere, be it Boston or elsewhere, as a starter or backup. If he really does have the ability to develop a bat to go with it, then he'll get the at bats to prove it. Jose Molina got some 2500 of them while hitting to a .600 OPS the whole way, after all. The first step is just to get back on the field, and that's what he's getting ready to do.