Can Sox steer Swihart from Austin to Boston?

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Can Sox steer Swihart from Austin to Boston?

By MaureenMullen
CSNNE.com

Blake Swihart, the switch-hitting catcher from V. Sue Cleveland High in Rio Rancho, NM, who was Red Sox' second pick in the draft, has committed to the University of Texas, calling it his "Plan A."

So committed is he to the Longhorns that he's planning to travel to Omaha to watch Texas in the College World Series when it begins June 18.

Still, he pledges to keep an open mind and will listening to the Sox' overtures between now and the Aug. 15 signing deadline.

"I love the atmosphere out there in Texas and if I do end up signing, it probably will be at the end just because I'm really dedicated to Texas," he said.

Swihart is relatively new to catching. At the suggestion of a coach in his sophomore year, he moved to the position.

"I can actually play any position," he said. "Every position feels natural but at catcher I actually feel pretty good right now. I worked a lot on my arm slot, a lot on my quickness on my feet, and if I keep working, I think I can develop a lot more there.

"I can play any position. So where ever I need to play, I'll play. If it's catcher, I'll succeed there and work my butt off to get where I need to be."

Texas, he said, has promised him an opportunity to catch "about 75 percent of the time and play another position the rest of the time because they like my bat in the lineup every day."

He likes that the Sox have switch-hitting catchers at the big-league level now, in Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Jason Varitek this season, and Victor Martinez last season.

"It's amazing. It's awesome," he said, of his selection by the Red Sox. "They have a great organization. I'm just excited. It's pretty cool."

He had a good inkling the Sox might be the team that picked him.

"In the past couple weeks Red Sox area scout Matt Mahoney's been trying to get a hold of me a lot," Swihart said. "But I've been really busy and haven't been answering too many phone calls, just because I've been doing a lot of family stuff here in town. So he was showing a lot of interest, calling almost every day and so I expected the Red Sox to be one of the picks for me. I kind of saw it coming but wasn't sure at the same time, just because of my commitment to Texas, I didn't know if anything was going to happen."

Swihart's first Little League team was the Cardinals. With no big-league team in New Mexico, he adopted the St. Louis Cardinals as his favorite. He's now willing to throw his allegiance behind the Red Sox.

"I guess I do like the Red Sox now," he said. "I guess that'd be my favorite."

His allegiance taken care of, now the Red Sox just have to compete for his commitment.

Maureen Mullen is on Twitter athttp:twitter.commaureenamullen

McAdam: Walk-off loss quickly washed away by Red Sox celebration

McAdam: Walk-off loss quickly washed away by Red Sox celebration

NEW YORK -- Worst to first.

Again.

Sound familiar?

It should, since the Red Sox are now making this a habit. For the second time in the last four years, the Red Sox have rebounded from a last-place finish -- two, in fact, in this instance -- to claim a division title.

On Wednesday, they won it the hard way -- by losing the game, 5-3, on a walk-off grand slam by the New York Yankees' Mark Teixeira, but clinching first thanks to a loss by the second-place Toronto Blue Jays.

It's as though the Red Sox were determined to win it on a trick bank shot. They had already won the A.L. East more conventionally in 2013, by actually winning their clinching game. But the awkwardness of blowing a three-run lead in the ninth was soon washed away in a spray of champagne and beer in a raucous clubhouse.

"One inning,'' declared John Farrell, "should not take away from the fact that we're champions.''

Indeed, the Red Sox had already paid the price to get to this point with two consecutive finishes in the division basement. They had to wait for their young foundation to mature and evolve.

Mookie Betts went from being a good, promising player to a legitimate MVP candidate. Jackie Bradley Jr. transformed from defensive marvel and streaky hitter to solid, all-around All-Star. Xander Bogaerts continued to improve and finally checked the "power'' box.

"I don't know what expectations we had coming in,'' confessed Bradley. "You just know that as long as you play hard, do the right things, keep together. . . We knew we had a talented team, but you still have to play the game. We were able to play the game at a high level this year.

"I think we knew this could happen in spring training, that we could be a pretty special team.''

By this year, the growing pains were over. The young stars had arrived and were ready to not just flash potential, but this time, do something with it.

"Everything came to fruition,'' noted Bradley, "and we're here.''

Along with the expected developments, there were surprises: Sandy Leon went from fourth-string journeyman to starting catcher, unseating several teammates along the way. Steven Wright went from bullpen long man to All-Star starter. Andrew Benintendi came from nowhere to claim the left field job in the final two months.

Some of this was planned. The rest -- and this is the beauty of sports -- was not.

The team showed a powerful finishing kick down the stretch, obliterating anything and anyone in its way in the final month, winning 11 straight, including seven in a row on the road -- all against division opponents.

The road-heavy second-half schedule that threatened to derail them instead toughened them and served as a springboard.

Comparisons will be made, of course, to the last two championship teams - 2004 stands alone for obvious reasons. Farrell was the pitching coach for one (2007) and the manager of another (2013).

"This is a more dynamic offense than those other teams,'' said Farrell. "We've got more team speed, we've got more athleticism. I can't say that this is a better team; it's different.''

"Better'' may have to wait until November, and the end of the postseason. It will require a World Series victory to match 2007 and 2013.

Time will tell. But for a night, there was enough to celebrate.

"By no means,'' said Farrell, dripping in champagne, "is this the end. This is just the beginning of our postseason.''

 

Quotes, notes and stars: Red Sox lose, but 'celebrate anyway'

Quotes, notes and stars: Red Sox lose, but 'celebrate anyway'

NEW YORK - Quotes, notes and stars from the Red Sox' 5-3 loss in New York.

 

QUOTES:

"I feel pretty good. Let's put it this way: Where we are now, I wouldn't want to play us going into the playoffs." - Red Sox principal owner John Henry

"I wanted to celebrate on that field so bad, but it is what it is. We end up being the first place team in the American League, and we're going to celebrate anyway." - David Ortiz, after the Red Sox lose on a walkoff, but clinch the division anyway.

“I’ll still be trying to hit the next four games, but if it just happens to be my last one (homer of his career), it’ll be pretty special." - Mark Teixeira, who's retiring Sunday and hit the walk-off grand slam.

 

NOTES:

* Joe Kelly became the first Red Sox pitcher to allow a walkoff grand slam since Julian Tavarez in 2006.

* Craig Kimbrel failed to record an out -- in 28 pitches -- marking the third time in 410 career appearances that that happened.

* Koji Uehara posted his 14th straight scoreless appearance.

* Brad Ziegler hasn't allowed an earned run in his last 19 appearances.

* Dustin Pedroia has scored five runs and knocked in seven in his last five games.

* Mookie Betts posted his major league-leading 66th multi-hit game.

* Clay Buchholz has a 2.63 ERA in his last seven starts.

* The one hit allowed by Buchholz marks the fewest hits allowed by him in a non-injury-shortened game since his no-hitter in 2007.

* The win marked only the second time the Red Sox have clinched the A.L. East away from home. The other time was in Cleveland in 1998.

 

STARS:

1) Mark Teixeira

The first baseman is going out in style. In the final week of his career, he hit his second game-winning homer of the week, with Wednesday's being a walk-off grand slam.

2) Clay Buchholz

Buchholz was brilliant, allowing three baserunners -- an infield hit and two walks -- in six shutout innings.

3) Mookie Betts

Betts delivered what appeared to be the game's biggest blow -- a two-run chopped double in the eighth to break open a scoreless tie.