Boston Red Sox catcher Christian Vazquez really might be at his physical peak ahead of the 2021 Major League Baseball season.
Sure, it’s a running clichÃ©-turned-joke in baseball circles — players claiming to be in the best shape of their lives upon reporting to spring training — but Vazquez said Friday he lost 15 pounds over the offseason after hiring a nutritionist and already is benefitting from the body transformation.
“I’m lighter. I feel better. I’m moving better behind the plate,” Vazquez told reporters during a video conference. “I feel 10 years younger. It feels good.”
Vazquez, selected by the Red Sox in the ninth round of the 2008 MLB Draft, is entering his age-30 season. He totaled a career-high 138 games in 2019, then played in 47 games in 2020 as MLB implemented a 60-game regular-season schedule due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
There’s no doubt Vazquez is Boston’s No. 1 backstop, as he’s evolved into one of MLB’s better all-around catchers in recent years. And although he’ll give way to backup Kevin Plawecki on occasion, Vazquez hopes to catch as many games as possible in 2021.
“I like to be in the lineup every day,” Vazquez said Friday. “They pay me for that, so why not? Take charge every day behind the plate, help my pitchers, help block all the balls. It’s a pride inside me.”
Vazquez, known more for his defense coming up through the Red Sox system, has made significant strides offensively. He batted .276 with 23 home runs, 72 RBIs and a .798 OPS in 521 plate appearances in 2019, then hit .283 with seven homers, 23 RBIs and an .801 OPS in 189 plate appearances in 2020.
That duel-threat capability certainly is a luxury for the Red Sox as they look to return to contention in 2021. And it also highlights just a portion of Vazquez’s value, as him showing up to spring training in tip-top shape is further evidence of his evolution as a leader in Boston’s clubhouse.