BOSTON — Ryan Hanigan’s injury led to a think tank, albeit a brief one.
The Red Sox needed to decide whether to call up Blake Swihart, a 23-year-old rookie with zero major league experience, or Humberto Quintero, a 35-year-old journeyman who’s tasted the majors in a dozen seasons, to take the reins as Boston’s starting catcher. It was an easy call.
But that doesn’t mean there wasn’t a discussion. Red Sox manager John Farrell acknowledged before Sunday’s game against the New York Yankees that the club considered Quintero as an option before ultimately promoting Swihart from Triple-A Pawtucket for his first stint in The Show.
“You look at a young player and how much have they improved or (are) gaining with certain areas of the game in their own development,” Farrell said Sunday of deciding between an up-and-comer and an experienced veteran. “The total package. Offensive ability, even though there’s no history at the major league level. It was pretty unanimous after some discussion that Blake was the choice.”
Swihart certainly made sense from a roster standpoint. The prospect already was on Boston’s 40-man roster, meaning the Red Sox could easily call him up while placing Hanigan on the 15-day disabled list, as they did before Saturday’s game. Promoting Quintero (not on the 40-man roster) would have required Boston to either immediately place Hanigan on the 60-day DL (thus clearing a spot on the 40-man roster) or make a separate move that opened a spot on the 40-man roster.
But such a technicality wasn’t at the root of Boston’s decision. After all, the Red Sox transferred Hanigan to the 60-day DL before Sunday’s game to create a roster spot for infielder Luis Jimenez, whom they claimed off waivers from the Milwaukee Brewers.
The Red Sox’s verdict instead was based on Swihart’s upside and recent progress in the minors, even though Boston is well-aware that its new starting catcher is far from a finished product.
“The only thing that will change with that is the pitcher on the mound,” Farrell said of Swihart’s need to adjust to a new setting and a new staff. “But the process, or the system in place, that remains consistent day to day. There’s in-game conversations based on what he’s feeling and reading with swings while he’s behind the plate. That’s all part of the early learning curve here.”
It’s still unclear how the Red Sox will divvy up the playing time between Swihart and fellow backstop Sandy Leon. It doesn’t sound like Swihart’s youth or inexperience will play much of a role in determining each catcher’s workload, though. This truly is Swihart’s time to shine.
“We want to get Blake in the flow of things as quick as we can and yet recognize and be a little bit sensitive to when there may be the need for a breather — no different than Mookie (Betts) in center field, or when any other young player comes here,” Farrell said. “I will say this, as a rookie catcher who’s also a switch-hitter, his plate is extremely full.”
Sometimes, considering the alternative can lead to a change of heart, especially when dealing with a prospect who’s still developing. Other times, swinging for the fences is the obvious move even after a quick chat in which all options are considered.
Thumbnail photo via Kathy Willens/The Associated Press