Boston Red Sox manager Alex Cora will put Christian Vazquez up against the best of them, and the veteran catcher has made that look like a smart bet six games into the 2021 campaign.
“When I see how people rank catchers outside of our world, he’s the closest thing to a complete package, right?,” Cora told reporters after Boston’s 9-2 win over the Tampa Bay Rays on Wednesday, per the team.
“He’s swinging the bat the last two years. Defensively, we know what he can do, but nobody gives him the recognition. And it’s not that he needs it, but I do believe he’s one of the top catchers in the league,” Cora added.
Vazquez crushed his second home run in as many games Wednesday with a two-run shot in the fourth inning against Tampa Bay starter Ryan Yarborough. It gave the Red Sox a 3-1 lead less than 24 hours after he hit a game-tying homer in the ninth inning of Tuesday’s extra-innings win over the Rays.
The 30-year-old backstop compiled two hits, two runs and three RBIs in the series-sweeping win. He slapped an RBI single in the fifth inning, as well. Vazquez now has eight hits, six runs and four RBIs in his first six games.
“I’m very proud of him because he puts in work in the offseason,” Cora said. “? He just wants to be one of the best. And it’s not about recognition, it’s about putting in work. And I’m very happy he’s off to a great start. Last year was a 60-game season, but it was a good one (for him). What he did two years ago was amazing, and hopefully he can continue doing that.”
Vazquez compiled 49 hits and 23 RBIs in 60 games last season while recording a .283 batting average. He had 133 hits (23 home runs) and 72 RBIs in 138 games with a .276 batting average during the 2019 campaign.
Vazquez, you may remember, was sidelined at the end of spring training after a ball hit him in the eye during batting practice. Cora, however, is not surprised with how Vazquez has responded.
“He’s one of the toughest ones in that clubhouse. He wants to play every day,” the Red Sox skipper said. “He knows he’s one of the leaders on the team. He’s been here a long time. He wants to lead this staff to do something big. It was a frustrating year last year behind the plate for him obviously but now, like we said, we feel like we’re a lot better than last year and he’s in a great place.”
The Red Sox are in a greater place due to Vazquez, too. Boston earned a third-straight win over the Rays and now travels to Baltimore Orioles as it looks to improve on a 3-3 overall record.