Blake Swihart

Steve Mitchell/USA Today Sports

Battle brewing for utility spots on Red Sox roster -- Blake Swihart up, Brock Holt struggling to stay healthy

John Tomase
March 14, 2018 - 11:49 am

A battle is brewing for the utility spots on the Red Sox.

Red Sox manager Alex Cora on Wednesday discussed his reserve options and addressed the prospects of multiple players, including Brock Holt, Blake Swihart, Deven Marrero, and Tzu-Wei Lin.

Start with Holt. An All-Star in 2015, he has trended in the wrong direction ever since, hitting .255 in 2016 and just .200 last year while missing nearly 100 games with continued concussion issues.

Holt's value is versatility, thanks to his ability to play every position on the field except catcher. He has been sidelined so far this spring by an abdominal strain and then after getting hit by a pitch on Monday.

"He got hit the other day," Cora said. "But we know what he brings to the table."

The player who has opened the most eyes in camp is Swihart. Drafted as a catcher before a disastrous move to the outfield ended with a severe ankle injury, Swihart is regaining his luster with a strong spring. He enters play on Wednesday hitting .371 with nine extra-base hits and a 1.179 OPS. He will see some time at third base against the Pirates on Sunday.

Helping Swihart's odds of making the team -- he's out of options.

"The guy that is expanding his versatility is Blake," Cora said. "You know, catching, playing first, playing the outfield. Everybody knows his situation. The more we play him out there, the better feel we're going to have about the player."

If there's a player Cora feels a personal affinity for, it's Marrero. Cora considered himself a similar player during the early portion of his career, when his glove got him to the big leagues, but only the development of his bat would keep him there.

"The guy that I've been talking a little bit more lately is Deven," Cora said. "Because I see Deven, I see myself, as a player. Great defensively and offensively, not so great, but there's a part of his offensive game that needs to get better and he knows it. I would love him to see him play with the same confidence as he does defensively in that batter's box. He's striking out too much, so we're talking about him hitting the ball the other way, moving guys over. He needs to improve that and he knows it."

As for Lin, Cora noted he's comfortable with the youngster in the infield or outfield, even if Lin would prefer to play the former.

"We're comfortable with all of them," Cora said. "They're making strides. Obviously Brock is the veteran guy, he's done it better. Next few days he's going to play in the outfield. We're just moving them around, make them feel comfortable, and in the end, we're going to decide who we're going to take."