By Maureen Mullen
BOSTON – Since making his major league debut on July 9, catcher Christian Vazquez has made all the right impressions.
“He’s done a phenomenal job,” said veteran catcher David Ross, who is currently on the disabled list. “I had high expectations for him… I expected him to do this or more. He’s a really, really good catcher. He cares. He’s a great game caller. He’s still learning in some areas, but we’re learning on the fly here. It’s actually been fun for me to watch him to just take hold of this staff and do a really good job.”
Since getting called up from Triple-A Pawtucket, Vazquez, 23, has appeared in 22 games, starting in 20 of them. When Ross is activated from the disabled list (expected to be sometime next week), Vazquez will retain his role as the primary catcher.
Although he has been charged with three errors (two throwing, on fielding) and a passed ball, Vazquez has demonstrated his strong right arm, one of his best tools, throwing out three attempted base runners in 11 tries with one pick-off.
Vazquez has the green light to throw when he wants.
“We turn him loose,” said manager John Farrell. “We give him the green light, if you will, to be aggressive. And I think [Pawtucket manager] Kevin Boles has done a good job with monitoring that in maybe some situations where they’ve had to pull him back a little bit. We’ll remind him in these one-run games, particularly if we’re up a run maybe to temper that aggressiveness rather than giving up 90 feet or potentially two bases if it’s a throw down the right field corner. But the one thing he’s shown, whether it’s his throws behind runners or his trips to the mound or his game calling, the instincts are very, very good for a young player.”
One of which is his ability to frame pitches, maybe helping a pitcher get a call he might not otherwise.
“It’s invaluable, particularly what we’ve seen at the bottom of the strike zone,” Farrell said. “It makes all the difference in the world. He gives the umpire a very good look behind the plate.”
Vazquez is hitting .236/.293/.306, going 17-for-72, for five doubles, 12 RBI, seven walks, and 11 strikeouts. In 66 games with the PawSox this season he hit .279/.336/.385.
“It’s hard to predict the type of power he may develop into,” Farrell said. “I do know this his approach at the plate doesn’t cause him to expose the outside part of the plate so he stays on a number of pitches away. We saw it [Thursday] night with the sacrifice fly to right field. we’ve seen him stay on breaking balls that are running away from him. So he gives himself a chance to handle pitches that are on the outside part of the plate, and for a young hitter I think that’s what’s going to allow him to contribute early on.”