No matter how you slice it, Christian Vazquez’s injury stinks for the Boston Red Sox.
It’s unclear whether Vazquez will miss the entire season, though an appointment with Dr. James Andrews always is an ominous sign. It’s crystal clear, however, that the 24-year-old’s sprained right elbow is a crushing blow with Opening Day one week away.
“The time missed will interrupt his development at the major league level,” manager John Farrell said Monday after the Red Sox placed Vazquez on the 60-day disabled list. “What I mean by that is just his overall game-calling, the running of a game, which has been solid, there’s always going to be things he can learn. That’s going to be interrupted at this point.
“It’s a blow to us. It’s a blow to him. We’ve got to support him, whatever is determined after Wednesday’s second opinion with Andrews.”
Vazquez, who made his major league debut last July, only has 55 games of big league experience. For all anyone knows, he could have gone into this season, not hit a lick and turned into a liability. It seems unlikely, sure, but it’s worth noting we’re still talking about a young player with a limited track record. Thus, it’s difficult to quantify just how much the Red Sox will miss him while he’s sidelined in 2015.
But enough playing devil’s advocate. While Vazquez could have struggled in Year 2, all signs going into this season pointed toward the talented backstop taking the next step. His defense already is elite and his offensive approach improved significantly down the stretch last season. The Red Sox probably don’t have a future batting champion on their hands, but they absolutely might have a future Gold Glove winner. And now, they’ll be forced to wait an extended period before reaping the benefits. That stings.
Pitchers have raved about working with Vazquez this spring, with newcomer Rick Porcello even saying recently the former ninth-round pick is the best pitch-framer he’s ever thrown to. Numbers back up Porcello’s praise, as Vazquez ranked ninth in the majors last season by saving 12.2 runs above average, according to StatCorner.com.
At a time when the Red Sox’s pitching staff — both the rotation and the bullpen — faces several questions, the team needs stability. And Vazquez figured to provide that through his overall defensive aptitude, his intelligence behind the plate and, perhaps above all, his drive.
Vazquez brings an incredible level of passion and energy to the ballpark each day. It’s reflected in his preparation, his clubhouse interactions and his work between the lines. It’s impossible to calculate how much of that enthusiasm rubs off on teammates or whether it makes a sizable impact on a nightly basis, but over the course of a 162-game grind, it helps to have players like that in the starting lineup.
This isn’t to say Ryan Hanigan, who will be thrust into a starting role in Vazquez’s absence, won’t rise to the occasion. He, too, is well-respected and fully capable of connecting with his pitchers. But a Vazquez-Hanigan tandem looked like a potential area of strength, whereas now the Red Sox, who must sift through a trio of Humberto Quintero, Sandy Leon and top prospect Blake Swihart to determine the best backup option, face yet another question that casts doubt over whether Boston’s pitching will be good enough this season.
Vazquez already started to emerge as a leader, but leading from the sidelines is much more difficult. And unfortunately for the Red Sox, that’s where Vazquez will be parked for an unspecified amount of time.
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