Ryan Hanigan Begins Rehab Assignment with PawSox

On Monday night the PawSox had a familiar name in the lineup batting third. None other than Red Sox catcher Ryan Hanigan, who began a rehab assignement after being out since May 1st after taking a foul ball off the hand. Hanigan caught 7 innings and was lifted for pinch hitter Humberto Quintero.

With Hanigan on the 60 day disabled list will likely spend much of a 20 day rehab assignment with the PawSox befire getting called up. Obviously strength in the hand is Ryan Haniganvery important for catchers, so my guess is the Red Sox will have him play a few games back to back and assess when he will be ready to come back. With Blake Swihart and Sandy Leon handling catching duties the last six weeks the pitching staff has looked better, but Hanigan has still had an impact from the dugout serving as a mentor for his catching teammates.

Hanigan was the catcher in Monday nights game against Rochester and was the DH in Tuesday’s tilt batting third both games. Hanigan did not catch Matt Barnes who came on to pitch the 9th inning in a 3-2 PawSox loss.

With a minor foot injury leaving Blake Swihart day-to-day the Red Sox claimed catcher Erik Kratz off waivers from the Royals as he will serve as insurance likely until Hanigan is ready to return. The decision to demote Blake Swihart may be a difficult one as he has made strides on the fly, but getting regular at bats is what Swihart needs as a young player for his confidence. Sandy Leon has served as Clay Buchholz’s undeclared personal catcher the first few months of the season, could also be a roster casualty once Hanigan returns.

Should the Red Sox continue to fall out of the race Hanigan himself could be appealing to teams looking to add a veteran catcher to their roster. Hanigan is signed through 2016 for $3.7 million with a club option for 2017 worth the same number, a contract he originally signed with Tampa Bay. For now Ryan Hanigan is working is way back from injury and the Red Sox will be glab to have him back on their roster.

PawSox Catchers Have Diverse Roles

PawSox catchers

Before Ryan Hanigan fractured a knuckle and went on the disabled list, the Pawtucket Red Sox had four catchers, all of whom served the team in different manners.
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Now that Blake Swihart is out of the picture and up with the big league club it is a little different, but no two PawSox catchers are alike.pawsox catchers

Of course Swihart was the big-time prospect and the one fans knew most by name, but he was not the only one getting his work in for the PawSox.
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“All four of us do our catching stuff on a daily basis,” veteran catcher Matt Spring said before Swihart’s call-up. “You know, catching bullpen sessions and all that. Whenever my role changes back to that, I’ll be ready.”

The three catchers down in AAA right now are Matt Spring, Humberto Quintero and Luke Montz. Of the three, Quintero has the most big league experience and is the only one of the three that has caught a game this season.

On paper, Quintero is the first guy Boston would call up because he has so much big league experience. Montz on the other hand has a little bit of big league time and an injury prematurely ended his fight for a roster spot with the Oakland A’s last spring training. Now Montz is in a reserve role which consists of playing first base and left field.
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People might see 30-year-old Matt Spring as a career Minor League catcher, but as of late he has taken over the PawSox starting first base role. He has a hit in all but one of his ten games this year.

For the first time in his career, Spring has a chance to really make a name for himself as a regular contributor to the PawSox lineup.
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“I think that’s what all of us want to do,” Spring said. “Go out there and do whatever we can do to help and if it’s going out there and playing first base right now, I’ll fill that role whenever I can— whatever opportunity I have to get my name in the lineup.”

Matt Spring has Big League Ambitions

Matt Spring

Minor Leaguers come and go, but it will take a lot more than age for PawSox catcher Matt Spring to give up on the game he loves.

At 30 years old, he enters his his 12th pro season at the highest level to date—AAA.

Spring has just 17 career games in AAA to his credit at this point in his career, but he looks tomatt spring be in the mix of PawSox catchers this year that includes big league veteran Humberto Quintero and top prospect Blake Swihart.
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As a result, he starts the year on the seven-day Disabled List and while he may not be concussed, it is a way for the PawSox to keep extra depth behind the plate.

It may be tough for him to find playing time at times given the depth the team has behind the backstop, but if anything happens at the big league level, he is sure to see more reps behind the plate in Pawtucket.
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“Whenever you can get your bat in the lineup, that’s what you want to do,” Spring told Yawkey Way Report at PawSox media day. “So whether it be first base, left field or whatever, I’ll take at-bats when they come.”

“That’s the biggest thing, taking advantage of those opportunities when you do get to play. Just lead by example for some of these younger guys who are obviously trying to do the same thing as me—trying to make it to the big leagues,” he added.

In addition to being a catcher with some pop (eight home runs in 43 games last year), Spring is a guy who the organization values as a mentor, someone who can help up-and-coming players.
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Headed into the year, Spring received an invite to big league Spring Training and capitalized on the opportunity by going six-for-14 with three doubles and a homer in 13 games.

“It’s a good opportunity to go to Major League camp and I just had to take advantage of it,” he said. “My mentality may have been a little bit different, making sure I came in ready to go and everything like that.”

Each and every year, Spring looks to get better and he took a little bit different of an approach this off season.

“I ate a lot healthier,” he said. “I tried to change my approach—instead of just getting strong I leaned out.”

Power has always been a huge part of his game, but he is not really concerned about hitting home runs, although they do come with being a strong catcher.

As a catcher, Spring plays one of the few positions where defense has more worth than offense and although this is not his first time around the rodeo, he still works to improve defensively.

“That’s the biggest thing—especially coming into Spring Training,” said Spring. “Showing the team what to do defensively—you know it’s a defensive first position so being ready to go on the defensive side is important.”
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Many guys in the high minors get a cup of coffee in the majors, not contributing much of anything at the top level before they are sent down to never make it back up again. Spring has yet to have the opportunity to play Major League Baseball yet, but surely even one game would mean a lot to him.

“Obviously you want to be doing whatever you can to make it to the big leagues and you know if playing left field or first base is what will get me there, then that’s great.”

Professionally, Spring has over 500 games catching and 33 games at first base—he occasionally takes reps at DH but would play anywhere if it came down it.

A player and mentor, perhaps there is the chance fans will see Coach Spring at some point, although he still has plenty of years ahead of him playing the game.
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“You never know, I mean obviously that’s something I have to talk about with my family,” he said. “It’s something I’ve thought about and something that’s definitely my reputation as a clubhouse guy and my success off the field would definitely help me get a job.”