Christian Vazquez

John Farrell: Christian Vazquez 'ready and capable' of being an Opening Day catcher

September 19, 2014 - 2:57 pm
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BALTIMORE -- Jackie Bradley Jr. is hitting .203 with a .271 OBP and .272 slugging mark this year. Christian Vazquez is hitting .217/.278/.268. Yet whereas Bradley's offensive performance in 414 plate appearances has raised questions about his future big league role, the Sox have a more optimistic view of Vazquez's offensive performance.

"He'€™s handled different types of pitching well. The batting average, I recognize what it is. He'€™s squared up a number of balls. Sometimes they haven'€™t fallen. I think he'€™s doing a very good job for us in all phases and I wouldn'€™t be, I guess the best way to say it ... his batting average, that doesn'€™t concern me right now."

Asked if he viewed Vazquez as a big league-caliber hitter right now, Farrell didn't hesitate to answer in the affirmative. He cited Vazquez's ability to execute in the details of the game, primarily by getting the bat on the ball (whether for sacrifice bunts or situational hitting), in explaining his view. (Worth noting: Bradley has struck out in 28.3 percent of plate appearances this year; Vazquez has struck out in just 16.2 percent of plate appearances.)

"Setting aside the batting average, there'€™s the ability to handle a bat. He can execute the small game. He can hit to the situation. He'€™s a very good situational hitter, including being able to sacrifice with great consistency," said Farrell. "He'€™s probably one of the more, I would say he'€™s one of the more complete hitters that has come to us, setting aside the batting average."

Farrell said that he could envision Vazquez as his Opening Day catcher -- though he noted that having him in such a role in 2015 might depend on the shape of the rest of the roster.

"I think he'€™s ready and capable of handling that [Opening Day starting] role. I think what will be as important is who is paired up with him," said Farrell. "That'€™s not to eliminate anyone that'€™s here. That'€™s not to suggest who that might be. Christian is, I think, in short order, has gained a reputation around the league to be somewhat of a shutdown thrower with the aggressiveness of his picks, of his throws to bags. Like we said, he'€™s a focal point for a team when they'€™re on offense, to have to contend with behind the plate."

In terms of that defense, Farrell said that Vazquez is doing "a very good job" behind the plate, something that remains true even as he's reached a career single-season high for games played (between Triple-A and the big leagues) with 114 and games caught with 100.

"He wants to play every day," said Farrell. :He'€™s adamant about it. He knows when he'€™s not in the lineup, he'€™s respectful of it, but he makes it known that he wants to catch every day. He'€™s showing durability. And again, I know it'€™s in a short window here, but he'€™s answered the bell every time we'€™ve asked."

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