John Farrell hints Sandy Leon has edge over Humberto Quintero, Blake Swihart could start in minors

Mike Petraglia
March 30, 2015 - 12:57 pm
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FORT MYERS, Fla. -- With so many moving parts at once right now, it would be hard to blame manager John Farrell for choosing his words very carefully when asked to project his roster, including the catching position. Reading between the lines of Farrell's meeting with reporters before Monday night's game with the Twins at JetBlue Park, it appeared that 26-year-old Sandy Leon has the inside track to be Ryan Hanigan's backup over 35-year-old Humberto Quintero, primarily because Leon is out of options and was immediately placed on the 40-man roster Monday while Quintero is not on the 40-man. "I can't deny that that is a factor," Farrell acknowledged. "And it's probably the same reason why he became available to us. That's a factor in all of this, particularly when you look at trying to build depth. That's not to take anything away from Humberto because he's done a very good job for us." Leon walked through the clubhouse doors at JetBlue Park Monday afternoon before the game with the Twins, with his equipment bag in tow, and expressed his desire to help right away. "It's really good. I'm happy just to be here and learn a new team, new teammates, new pitchers. Just trying to communicate with them. I was enjoying my spring training, having fun playing. It was really difficult. I didn't know what was going to happen. This morning I wasn't expecting this. After 20 minutes, they were like, 'Hey, you got traded.' It feels kind of weird. But I feel good, just happy to be here." "I think it's going to be good. I was really positive. I just want to play and help the team to win and get to a World Series. That's what I want." Leon was asked if he was competing for a starting or backup catching job with Ryan Hanigan. "I have no idea. You just have to wait to get into the games and see what happens," Leon said. "It's a really good challenge. I feel good." Quintero, who came over to give his native Venezuelan a hug at Leon's locker, has an opt-out deadline of Tuesday. If he accepts an assignment, he likely would begin the season at Triple-A Pawtucket. "There's no decisions on where we go but we needed to build depth, for sure," Farrell said. Another catcher could also be headed for Pawtucket by the end of the week. Farrell made it clear that Blake Swihart would benefit from more seasoning in the minors before more is demanded from the 22-year-old prospect. "The view is that with a young player like Blake or other guys, we prefer to get them on a little bit of a roll at the minor league level before they come to us," Farrell said. "There's also the need to continue to refine the receiving side of things. He's gotten quite a bit of opportunity here in camp. He's shown well I think. But just in the big picture, I think we can probably all benefit by playing every day and continuing to work on the developmental areas that are there." As for Leon, Farrell said he's looking forward to seeing the young catcher in action Tuesday in Port Charlotte against the Rays. "This is a guy that, given Christian's situation, we felt like we needed to build some depth at the position, a guy that was available because of being out of options and someone that we have always graded fairly high on the receiving end of things at the position," Farrell said. "He's in route today and have every intention of him being behind the plate [Tuesday] against the Rays. The remaining days will be taking advantage of to get a look here. "Other than scouting reports, we really don't know anything about him. So, we'll take every available and opportunity to do just that." Leon is a switch-hitter but Farrell said that factor didn't really play into the Monday acquisition. "No, it was a catcher that we've gotten solid reports on his receiving and a chance to build depth," Farrell said. "The switch-hitting component was probably less of a factor than the availability overall." Monday might be the last chance for Quintero to impress as he was the starting catcher against the Twins, catching Justin Masterson. "He's done a solid job. He's had his chance to catch Porcello, and I use Porcello as the example because he's caught him a couple of times," Farrell said. "He's got a feel for game-calling, the use of the full pitch mix, depending on the hitter and reading of swings. He's done everything we've could've anticipated coming into camp here." As for Vazquez being placed on the long-term disabled list, Farrell said Monday's move allowed for some roster flexibility to add Leon. "We know it's going to be at least 60 days," Farrell said of Vazquez. "It's a young guy that's extremely talented. There's a lot to like as a person and what he showed in the 55 games or so he caught for us last year. The time missed will interrupt his development at the major league level. What I mean by that is just his overall game-calling, the running of a game, which has been solid, there's always going to be things he can learn. That's going to be interrupted at this point. It's a blow to us. It's a blow to him. We've got to support him, whatever is determined after Wednesday's second opinion with Andrews."
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