BOSTON — Once a highly valuable trade chip, Red Sox prospect Blake Swihart is now looking at an attempt to rebound at new positions.
Swihart is going to play first and third base, Red Sox manager John Farrell said on Tuesday. A catcher for most of his career and an excellent athlete, Swihart had surgery on his left ankle last August, and the ankle is still problematic.
“He’s been on the DL [at Triple-A Pawtucket] because of the ankle issue,” Farrell said. “As he gets back active, because the stress of catching is not allowing him to catch as a regular everyday catcher, we’re going to begin moving him around the infield. He’s going to take ground balls at first. He’ll take some at third. He’ll still catch some, but the ankle is a limiting factor as far as how many games consecutively he can catch.”
The Sox tried Swihart in left field for a time last year before committing at the start of this year to having him catch. In 41 games played entering Tuesday, the switch-hitting Swihart’s slashing .213/.265/.327 with Pawtucket. He has three home runs in 41 games.
Swihart, 25, still has plenty of time to become a successful big leaguer, but he’s definitely on a tough detour from the planned path. Versatility in terms of positions could be a boon to him, but there's long been a sense he'd be most valuable as a catcher because of his hitting ability.
In June, farm director Ben Crockett noted how Swihart’s health was dragging down his season. He went back on the disabled list on July 5 with what’s listed as left ankle inflammation.
“It’s been a challenging season for him just given the injuries,” Crockett said in June. “I think that’s first and foremost: after having a solid spring training and coming out of the gates pretty well in Pawtucket, he’s missed a bunch of time.
“Obviously that’s nothing of his own fault, and yet, it is what it is. And I think at this point he’s still trying to find, find his stroke after the finger injury. He hasn’t let it affect him defensively. Particularly in the last couple weeks here, as he’s gotten back into the flow games, the defense has been pretty good.”