Having been a Sox fan for a long time, and made a living one way or another through the Boston Red Sox, I’ve gotten to know a lot of players through the years. In order to succeed in the Boston market, you have to have grit, be hard-nosed, tough and have a great work ethic. Those who have succeeded in Boston had that make-up. Catchers, Boston’s had some great ones—Fisk and Varitek come to mind. There were other good backstops in the last 30 years—Rich Gedman, Tony Pena, even Mike MacFarlan for a couple seasons, but we haven’t seen a good home grown catcher in a while. Until now. The baseball God’s have given us Christian Vazquez.
I’ve watched Vazquez play in Pawtucket this season and caught up with him right before he was promoted to the big club. I spoke to him after Matt Barnes’ second strong outing, and while most reporters were talking about the pitching performance, I spoke to Christian about how he was calling the game and what he felt he was doing right and wrong.
Christian told me he spends a lot of time pouring over opposing hitters stats, and sometimes calling a pitch on his gut feeling or a hunch that this guy can’t hit it inside. Vazquez said he is given a lot of freedom in how to control the game and said, “I like to keep the ball down and get my guys off the mound as quick as possible, inning by inning.” During the June 7th game, he gunned a guy down at first and held the team to no stolen bases. I watched this kid, like a sniper with precision, always have one eye on the base runner and not afraid to throw down to first after any pitch. After the game, when I asked Vazquez if his actions were instinct or instructions from the dugout, he replied,”It’s all me. Skipper gives me the green light to throw down if I think it’s right.”
When I asked him about his aggressive approach he said he worked on it over the winter in Jupiter, FL with Yadier and Bengie Molina. The Molina’s also helped him with his much improved defense and ability to block pass balls. In that June 7th game, I watched closely as not a single ball made it by his glove. The Molina’s stressed to Vazquez that you don’t get to be an All-Star catcher by allowing pass balls. “They cost runs and they cost games,” said Vazquez, adding, “I’ll do anything to get my pitcher the W.”
Christian Vazquez is just one of the many exciting new players coming through this system. This guy is my type of ball player: hard, tough and confident. He appears to be a born leader as well.
I think the next Varitek just showed up in the Red Sox locker room.