The Boston Red Sox’s Blake Swihart situation is in no way similar to the Chicago Cubs’ Kris Bryant situation.
The Cubs’ decision this week to reassign Bryant to minor league camp was controversial because the 23-year-old has been a beast this spring and his demotion seemingly is designed only to preserve another year of club control. The Red Sox plan to send Swihart to Triple-A Pawtucket to begin the 2015 season, but Boston general manager Ben Cherington indicated Wednesday the decision has nothing to do with service time.
“Absolutely not,” Cherington told ESPN.com’s Gordon Edes.
It would make perfect sense if the Red Sox wanted to preserve another year of team control with Swihart, just as it makes perfect sense for the Cubs to send Bryant to Triple-A for 12 days at the beginning of the season to ensure he’s not eligible for free agency until after the 2021 season. The Red Sox’s motives clearly are rooted in Swihart’s need for additional seasoning, though. The young catcher played just 18 games at Triple-A last season.
“At that particular position, given the responsibilities of that position, he just barely got to Triple-A last year,” Cherington told Edes. “We feel it’s in his best interest and our best interest to let him get a little more time there, polish up the (defensive) part of his game.”
Christian Vazquez’s elbow injury likely will hurt the Red Sox in several ways, as the 24-year-old was expected to be a rock behind the plate after an impressive first taste of the majors in 2014. Swihart could enter the major league equation before long, but the Red Sox will roll with veteran catcher Ryan Hanigan and either Sandy Leon or Humberto Quintero to open 2015. It’s all about balancing Boston’s short-term needs with its long-term goals.
“Again, we know there are no hard or fast rules on this, because if there are we’ve broken them,” Cherington told Edes about Swihart starting in the minors. “There is some history here, when we’ve called young players up during a season we’ve had some success doing that, or maybe comparatively more success, than we’ve had having guys making the team somewhat unexpectedly out of camp. So it was very clear coming into spring training this was going to be Blake’s opportunity to go to Triple-A and play at that level, catch more veteran pitchers, and that’s not going to change due to injury.”
Swihart’s time, like Bryant’s time, is coming. But unlike Bryant, Swihart is a young backstop with a lot still to learn.
Thumbnail photo via Kim Klement/USA TODAY Sports Images