May 23, 2013

Portland Sea Dogs:
The catcher’s a hit

Christian Vazquez, known for defense, is on an offensive tear, including a 10th-inning triple that leads to a walk-off win over New Hampshire.

By Kevin Thomas kthomas@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

PORTLAND — Catcher Christian Vazquez batted .205 in 20 games with the Portland Sea Dogs at the end of last season.

click image to enlarge

Heiker Meneses, right, is greeted by Xander Bogaerts as Michael Almanzar rushes in Wednesday night. Meneses singled in the winning run in the 10th inning as the Portland Sea Dogs defeated the New Hampshire Fisher Cats 5-4 at Hadlock Field.

Gabe Souza/Staff Photographer

click image to enlarge

Jason Varitek, the former Red Sox catcher and now an assistant to the general manager, is in Portland to help evaluate the prospects with the Sea Dogs.

Gabe Souza/Staff Photographer

THURSDAY’S GAME

WHO: New Hampshire Fisher Cats (Sean Nolin 2-0) at Sea Dogs (Franklin Morales 0-0)

WHEN: 11 a.m.

WHERE: Hadlock Field

TICKETS: About 1,700 available

In 29 games this year, the numbers read a whole lot better.

Vazquez, considered a major league prospect because of superior defense, almost hit for the cycle Wednesday night at Hadlock Field, recording a home run, triple and two doubles.

His triple in the 10th inning set up the winning run. Heiker Meneses singled in pinch-runner Derrik Gibson for Portland’s 5-4 victory over the New Hampshire Fisher Cats.

Vazquez’s effort upped his batting average to .298. With a walk, he reached base 5 of 5 times, improving his on-base percentage to 412. Combined with his .479 slugging percentage, Vazquez’s OPS is .891.

“He’s not coming out of his approach,” hitting coach Rich Gedman said. “He’s trusting it and staying with it.”

His approach? “Go to the middle of the field,” Vazquez said, although he is able to power the ball all over.

Pete Ruiz (1-1) got the win with three innings of one-hit relief.

Matt Barnes made his ninth start for the Sea Dogs (26-18), lasting five innings. Relying mainly on his fastball with a solid change-up, Barnes gave up seven hits and three runs (two earned). He walked one and struck out five. Barnes’ ERA dropped to 4.50.

Barnes left with a 4-3 lead, thanks to Vazquez’s two-run homer to left-center in the fourth.

Brad Glenn’s RBI double tied it in the seventh off Portland reliever Will Latimer.

Vazquez doubled to right in the eighth and stole third with one out but was stranded.

With one out in the 10th, Vazquez tripled down the left-field line, with the fielder playing closer to center. Gibson ran for Vazquez.

Meneses came up with two outs and fell behind 0-2 to Dustin Antolin (0-1).

“Just wanted to put the ball in play,” said Meneses, who then lined a single to left to win it.

NOTES: Two Red Sox players are scheduled to make rehab appearances with the Sea Dogs for their 11 a.m. game Thursday against the Fisher Cats: left-handed pitcher Franklin Morales and catcher David Ross. Morales has been on the disabled list since the season began with a back strain. This will be his fifth rehab appearance this year, his second in Portland. Ross has been out since May 11 with a concussion. … The announced paid attendance was 3,458. … Former Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek, now a special assistant to General Manager Ben Cherington, visited Hadlock on Wednesday, observing the Sea Dogs’ workout and game. He also will watch Thursday’s game. … Kolbrin Vitek played his first game in the outfield, starting in left. Vitek, a first-round draft pick in 2010, had never played the outfield. He made an error retrieving a double hit into the corner, bobbling the ball, allowing a run to score. … Vazquez has four stolen bases this year without being caught. … Former Portland pitcher Tommy Hottovy threw 22⁄3 scoreless innings in relief for New Hampshire. … Fisher Cats hitting coach Richie Hebner was ejected in the sixth inning after the umpires reversed a ruling on a bloop to center, saying Shannon Wilkerson of Portland did catch it. … Juan Carlos Linares, who was hit in the hand by a pitch last week, did not play again. He did take part in pregame workouts and batting practice.

Kevin Thomas can be reached at 791-6411 or kthomas@pressherald.com

Twitter: @ClearTheBases

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