BOSTON — Christian Vazquez played in his first major league game in more than a year Friday after missing the entire 2015 season because of Tommy John surgery.
He showed absolutely no signs of being bothered by the surgery or the lack of recent game action.
“I’m feeling good,” Vazquez said after Boston’s 5-3 win over the Toronto Blue Jays at Fenway Park. “I’m excited to be back. I had a great night.”
Vazquez is known for his exceptional defense, throwing power, and his ability to frame pitches and call a good game.
All of it was on display Friday night, particularly in the second inning when he gunned down Blue Jays shortstop Troy Tulowitzki to complete an inning-ending double play. It was an impressive display of arm strength, which Vazquez said is at about 95 percent right now.
“The one thing that hasn’t been affected (by missing so many games) is his footwork and his transfer. It’s lightning quick,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said. “I think his arm strength is approaching the pre-surgery level. When you consider all the things we talked about — framing, footwork, transfer — all of that is just very, very good.”
Vazquez also put on a clinic at framing pitches.
He was able to help Red Sox starter Rick Porcello by presenting several pitches that were on the edge or outside of the strike zone and getting the calls. The most important one came on Koji Uehara’s strikeout of Kevin Pillar to end the eighth inning with Boston leading by two runs.
“He’s so good at receiving pitches, regardless of the velocity,” Farrell said. “You see him stick pitches, even with (Craig) Kimbrel on the mound in the upper-90s, where his hands are soft and strong at the same time to present pitches to the home plate umpire very clearly.
“There might have been a number of times here tonight with that borderline pitch, he’s able to give that presentation to get a called strike.”
Porcello was impressed with Vazquez’s framing as well.
“He’s good. If he can get you a couple extra strike calls, that’s a huge advantage, especially against a team like this,” he said.
Vazquez also had a great night at the plate, where he went 2 for 4 and scored twice. He barely missed a home run to left field in the second inning and settled for a double. Given his extraordinary defense, any offense Vazquez provides is really a bonus for Boston. He was 6 for 13 in five rehab games at Triple-A Pawtucket before being recalled Friday afternoon.
But Vazquez’s real impact comes behind the plate, where he has a tremendous command for the game. It’s the type of confidence that’s contagious.
“He’s a captain on the field,” Porcello said. “That’s what that position calls for. He brings that.”
Thumbnail photo via Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports Images
Thumbnail photo via Apr 15, 2016; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Red Sox relief pitcher Craig Kimbrel (left) is congratulated by catcher Christian Vazquez after defeating the Toronto Blue Jays at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports
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