Jason Varitek gave a knowing look when asked about Red Sox catching prospect Blake Swihart.

“He’s pretty good,” Varitek said slowly with a smile, indicating Swihart was more than just pretty good.

But what about Swihart’s size? He was considered small for a catcher when the Red Sox took him in the first round of the 2011 draft.

“Small?” Varitek asked. “Have you seen him? He is not small.”

Indeed, the 6-foot-1 Swihart has put on 30 pounds in three years, now a solid 195 pounds.

And there’s a reason Varitek travels to Portland to see Swihart play for the Sea Dogs, as well as trips to Pawtucket to watch former Sea Dogs catcher Christian Vazquez – and another “pretty good” prospect, according to Varitek, the former Boston captain and catcher, now working as a special assistant to General Manager Ben Cherington.

They could be the future catchers in Fenway Park. Vazquez was drafted three years ahead of Swihart, in 2008.

The draft is where Boston is finding more and more players. That search continues today with the start of this season’s draft.

“Obviously we look at the best player out there,” said Amiel Sawdaye, Boston’s director of amateur scouting who, obviously, was not going to tell who the Red Sox like.

Boston liked a lot of players in 2011 when it had four of the first 40 picks. It chose pitcher Matt Barnes (19th overall), Swihart (26th), pitcher Henry Owens (36th) and outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. (40th).

Swihart came from Rio Rancho, outside of Albuquerque, New Mexico. He was relatively new to the scouts, starring his junior year in high school, then playing in showcase events and on the USA under-18 team (batting .448) in 2010.

There, Swihart met Owens, who the scouts knew well.

“Our parents were talking,” Swihart remembered. “Henry’s dad said ‘it’s been a crazy last couple of years.’ And my dad said, ‘it’s been a crazy last two months.’

“It just happened so fast. No one knew me and then the baseball world knew who I was.”

And the baseball world wanted to know all they could about Swihart, this skinny kid who only began catching his junior year.

“We had (scouts from) all 30 teams in our living room at some point,” Swihart said.

Swihart heard teams say they wanted him at third base or as a corner outfielder. Others, including the Red Sox, liked him wearing the gear.

“They were the main ones talking to me about catching,” Swihart said.

Boston picked Swihart and to sway him from a University of Texas scholarship, gave him a $2.5 million signing bonus.

“That was life-changing,” Swihart said. “It benefited my family a lot.”

The University of Texas, by the way, lost a few recruits to that draft, including Orioles first-rounder Dylan Bundy and Pirates second-rounder, Josh Bell.

Now that Boston had Swihart, could it develop him into a major league catcher?

“We saw the potential right off the bat,” said Chad Epperson, the Red Sox’s roving catching instructor. “Our scouts were dead-on when they said he could catch.

“He came in eager to learn and even at 164 pounds, showed signed of being a great one in all phases of his game.”

Swihart bloomed quickly. After his second full season in Class A Salem, the Red Sox named him their minor league defensive player of the year.

Swihart, a switch hitter, hit .298 for Salem, although with only two home runs. This year he’s batting .298 with six home runs and 11 doubles in 45 games.

And his defense is shining, throwing out 16 of 31 base-stealers, a .516 percentage. That is second-best among any catcher in Double-A, Triple-A or the major leagues (only Ed Easley’s .600 percentage is better, in Triple-A, and he’s batting .196).

“He’s getting more confident back there,” Sea Dogs Manager Billy McMillon said. “I like the trajectory that he’s on.”

Swihart’s progression got a boost when he was invited to major league spring training camp this year. Boston likely will put him on the 40-man roster after the season. Then it’s a matter of time when the once-promising draft pick becomes a major leaguer.

THE DRAFT takes three days, with the first two rounds Thursday, rounds 3-10 Friday and rounds 11-40 on Saturday.

The Astros draft first and their pick could come from the trio of high school left-hander Brady Aiken, North Carolina State left-hander Carlos Rodon, and high school catcher/outfielder Alex Jackson.

The Red Sox’s top two picks are the 26th and 33rd. Several names have surfaced, including infielders Michael Chavis (high school), Alex Blandino (Stanford) and A.J. Reed (Kentuckey), outfielders Derek Hill (high school) and Derek Fisher (Virginia), and two high school pitchers, Joey Gatto and Luis Ortiz.

Kevin Thomas can be reached at 791-6411 or at:

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Twitter: ClearTheBases