Catching became a big topic of conversation for the Red Sox in the past week.  After its worst start since 1996, Boston was looking for a way to improve the starting rotation, which had the highest ERA in baseball.

Because all five starters are established pitchers under contract for years to come, the attention turned to the men calling the pitches.  The decision was made that Sandy Leon, considered one of the game’s elite pitch callers, would be summoned from Triple-A Pawtucket.

The decision came at a cost.  Dave Dombrowski, the Red Sox president of baseball operations, had to designate Blake Swihart for assignment, ultimately trading him to Arizona for minor league outfielder Marcus Wilson.

Through it all, Christian Vazquez has done his best to remind us he’s a pretty good catcher, too. On Friday he hit a two-run homer to help lead the Red Sox to a 6-4 win over the first-place Tampa Bay Rays.

It was his fourth homer of the year, and it’s only April. That’s just one shy of his career high (five in 2017). And it’s the most by a Red Sox catcher in April since Jarrod Saltalamacchia hit five in 2012. In the last 20 years only Jason Varitek hit more for a catcher in April – six in 2005.

Not bad for a guy who was supposed to be a defensive catcher with questionable offensive ability.

And make no mistake, Vazquez is still very good with the glove. And his arm. That was on display when his snap throw picked off Tommy Pham to end Saturday night’s 6-5 win over the Rays. It locked down the first series win of the year for the Sox, and the first series loss of the year for Tampa Bay.

“I saw on the foul ball on the pitch before, he had a big lead, and I gave the sign to (first baseman Steve) Pearce,” Vazquez said. “Why not? If (Willy) Adames got a hit, it’s a tie game. We got the chance and we did it.”

Vazquez was quick to point out that he threw out a runner to end a Triple-A game in 2016. That’s notable because Vazquez missed all of 2015 after undergoing Tommy John surgery – an unusual procedure for catchers – and there were concerns at the time that he may not have the same arm strength when he returned.

Clearly he does. He leads active catchers (minimum 100 starts) by catching 39 percent of potential base stealers. Runners know to think twice before trying to grab an extra base. And Pham knows you better get back to your bag after a pitch with Vazquez behind the plate.

The baseball season is back on after the Red Sox swept the first-place Rays to move within five games of first place and four games of .500. Now they’re in a 10-game homestand at Fenway Park. And Vazquez has helped everyone calm down about the team’s catching situation.

Tom Caron is a studio host for Red Sox broadcasts on NESN. His column appears in the Portland Press Herald on Tuesdays.


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