Meet the most interesting player in Red Sox camp

From ESPN - March 10, 2018

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- He was an Opening Day catcher two months before wrecking his ankle while playing left field. He crams four varieties of gloves into one spring training equipment bag. And although he is out of minor league options, his career could still go in more directions than a "Choose Your Own Adventure" novel.

He is Blake Swihart, and hes the most interesting player in the Boston Red Soxs camp.

Just ask opposing scouts, many of whom cant take their eyes off him.

To me, a National League talent evaluator said Friday, hes a legit trade target.

A former first-round draft pick in 2011 (No. 26 overall), Swihart was regarded as recently as three years ago as the Red Soxs catcher of the future. But criticism of his defense behind the plate, an ill-advised decision to move him to an unfamiliar outfield position and a serious left ankle injury torpedoed his 2016 and 2017 seasons and put him on an alternate course, one that now has him attempting to make the big league roster -- Bostons or perhaps another teams --- as a super-utility player.

Over the past 10 days, Swihart has started seven games at four positions. He played first base for six innings Feb. 28, served as the designated hitter March 1 and was behind the plate March 2. He was the DH again on Sunday, played six innings in left field on Tuesday, caught Thursday and was the DH on Friday.

Next week figures to bring more of the same, with the possibility of adding third base to the rotation.

Love it, Swihart said. Especially when Im healthy, I love playing. If I can go out there and get as many reps as I can, its almost like a tryout for me.

Actually, that's exactly what it is.

Coming off a strong season last year, Christian Vazquez has ascended to the role of the Red Soxs primary catcher. Sandy Leon has the inside track to be the backup, in part because he was ace lefty Chris Sale's preferred catcher last season. Barring injuries, 11 of the 13 Opening Day roster spots for position players are filled, setting up a three-way fight for two jobs between Swihart and utilitymen Brock Holt and Deven Marrero.

Holt has the track record, to say nothing of the ability to play seven positions. But Marrero and Swihart are out of options and ca not be sent to Triple-A without being exposed to waivers. Theres at least a chance that Marrero, a slick fielder but a .208/.259/.309 career hitter, would go unclaimed. Swihart almost certainly would not.

And so, the Red Sox are trying to increase Swiharts versatility. First-year manager Alex Cora has drawn comparisons between Swihart and Austin Barnes, who played 55 games at catcher, 21 at second base and one at third base last season for the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Theres a guy, he can catch and all of a sudden in the World Series he was playing second base because hes that good of an athlete, Cora said. You see how athletic [Swihart] is. Hes one of the best athletes out there.


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