Ryan Hanigan is ready.
Christian Vazquez’s elbow injury could sideline the 24-year-old catcher for an extended period, which would force Hanigan into a starting role for the Boston Red Sox. The 34-year-old backstop is prepared to embrace the challenge in his first season with the club.
“I always train to come in to be a starting guy,” Hanigan told reporters Saturday in Fort Myers, Fla. “That’s what I always wanted, to tell you the truth. I train that way in the offseason so I’m going to work hard to be ready whenever my name is called. I figured that would probably be the situation. But put in my work daily and keep the body going and get on the field.”
Hanigan, who was acquired from the San Diego Padres over the offseason in exchange for Will Middlebrooks, has never appeared in more than 112 games in a season. He was acquired to be Boston’s backup with Vazquez assuming a starting role in 2015. Vazquez’s recent MRI revealed “something,” though, so it’s possible the second-year catcher could start the season on the disabled list, in which case Hanigan would see much more playing time than originally expected.
“You have to put in a lot of time after the game, recovery-wise,” Hanigan said of becoming a No. 1 catcher. “As much time as you put in preparing, you have to put in your hour, hour and a half after to make sure you’re ready for the next day.
“I’ve tweaked my program off and on through the years to try and figure out how my body works and the best way to make myself feel good and fresh every day. You just have to be diligent and be on it and just put in time. These guys (training staff) are great back there. They’re always there for me.”
Hanigan spent his first seven seasons with the Cincinnati Reds before playing for the Tampa Bay Rays in 2014. He’s typically been a backup, but that doesn’t mean the veteran is incapable of handling a starting gig. In fact, he’s pleased with the rapport he’s established with Red Sox pitchers in camp.
“Real good, actually. I’ve had a lot of good conversation with these guys,” Hanigan said Saturday. “I can still benefit in this next week and a half from sequencing stuff, calling the game, what they can execute, what they can throw off certain pitches, but I feel good. I know what their ball does. I know how they want to pitch. I’ve been able to talk to them and give my two cents on what I think can help some of these guys and they’ve been very receptive so far. I’ve gotten good feedback so I’m excited.
“See how it goes. You’re going to make some adjustments on the fly as the season goes I’m sure, and make some changes here and there, but I feel good.”
The Red Sox certainly would prefer if Hanigan remained a backup, as it would mean Vazquez is both healthy and productive. But injuries happen. And if Vazquez’s elbow issue is serious, Hanigan won’t back down from taking on a much bigger workload than Boston initially bargained for.
Thumbnail photo via Tommy Gilligan/USA TODAY Sports Images