BOSTON (CBS) — With their release of A.J. Pierzynski on Wednesday, the Boston Red Sox started a new beginning behind the plate.
With Pierzynski and his reported sourpuss ways in the clubhouse now out of town, it opens the door for 23-year-old prospect Christian Vazquez to begin his major league career. The rookie backstop made his debut Wednesday night in Boston’s 5-4 win over the White Sox, and will now split time with veteran backstop David Ross the rest of the season.
Vazquez went 0-for-3 in his debut, but showed off the defense behind the dish that scouts have been raving about for the last year. While no White Sox base runners attempted a steal against the rookie, Vazquez did get to show off his cannon of an arm as he gunned down Dayan Viciedo at second as the Chicago outfielder tried for an extra base on a Mike Napoli error. Vazquez received a throw from right fielder Mookie Betts at home, and quickly fired to Brock Holt at second to get the out.
There were obviously some nerves for the youngster as he made his debut, but he was happy with what he was able to show on the diamond.
“I was nervous a little bit, but I trust myself,” Vazquez said in the Boston locker room after the win. “But I’m more proud and I feel great.”
“I thought Christian Vazquez did an excellent job running the game tonight,” manager John Farrell said of his new backstop. “[There were] a number of pitches at the bottom of the strike zone that he framed exceptionally well, and [he] did a very good job overall.”
Vazquez said it helped to have Rubby De La Rosa on the mound, who he worked with on numerous occasions in Pawtucket. With the team well out of a playoff spot, the Red Sox view the final three months of the season as the perfect opportunity to get their catcher of the future an early start to what they hope is a long major league career.
“We think Vazquez has gotten to the point where he can help us defensively, and his at-bats over the last six weeks or so have been more consistent and he’s shown a good approach, so we think he can help us behind the plate,” general manager Ben Cherington said prior to Wednesday’s game. “This also is a bit of investment in him and opportunity for us to find out a little bit more about him as we start looking forward.”
Vazquez will have the perfect mentor to learn from as well in Ross. With 12+ years of experience, Ross is more than open to taking the youngster under his wings and showing him the ways of a major league backstop.
“I feel like I have a great opportunity here to give someone some lessons that maybe I learned the hard way and maybe get their feet wet a little easier. I’m still gonna play some and I know me and Vazquez are gonna have a good working relationship,” Ross told 98.5 The Sports Hub’s Toucher & Rich on Thursday. “I’ll be able to help him a lot in just some of the game-calling things and some of the things I’ve learned; the little tricks in reading hitters.
“He’s already got such a good feel for baseball,” Ross said of Vazquez. “It’s going to be fun for me to watch how developed he is. I’ll be on the bench watching every pitch and I’ll bounce things off of him and ask him questions. He’s not somebody that’s insecure. He’s a really positive catcher who seems really anxious to learn.”
Vazquez, a ninth round pick by Boston in 2008, was one of five rookies in the Red Sox lineup on Wednesday, joining Xander Bogaerts, Jackie Bradley Jr., Brock Holt and Mookie Betts. Given their place in the standings, the youth movement could get even greater for the Red Sox as the season winds down.
But for Vazquez, he’s just happy to start phase one of what has been a lifelong dream.
“It’s my dream to be here, to play in the big leagues now,” he said. “I’m very happy.”
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