8/11/2014 10:39 A.M. ET
Vazquez catching on quickly for Red Sox
Rookie backstop showing maturity beyond his years since reaching Majors
By Quinn Roberts / MLB.com
It's been little more than a month since catcher Christian Vazquez put on a Red Sox uniform for the first time, but from his demeanor in the clubhouse and his presence on the field, you'd never know it.
Ask any coach or player about the 23-year-old since his arrival on July 9 and they'll tell you that Vazquez has made a near-seamless transition to the Majors.
"He doesn't act like he's young. He has a real maturity about himself," veteran catcher David Ross said. "He really carries himself well and has great leadership qualities. I don't look at age. I look at guys personalities in this environment, and he fits right in."
Vazquez has done his best to ask questions and absorb information, relying heavily on Ross and pitching coach Juan Nieves to help guide him in the right direction.
"He sees the game inside the game, which is very impressive," Nieves said. "It also comes from his savviness. He sees things that happen in the game that most people don't look at. Seeing him behind the dish is great. He receives the ball beautifully and is very energetic."
Manager John Farrell also sees the confidence Vazquez has in his receiving skills.
"He makes every pitch seemingly look like a strike," Farrell said. "I can tell you, there's a lot of comments from the dugout when you think there's a ball that is just off the edge or looks to be a strike. Because he presents it so well and his hands are so strong that seemingly his target never gives with a mid-90-mph fastball. It's been impressive, his receiving."
That type of trust and belief in his ability to call a game has allowed Vazquez to find success in not only breaking in the younger members of the Red Sox's starting rotation, but veterans like Clay Buchholz.
In last weekend's series against the Angels, in which Vazquez caught Allen Webster on Friday and Buchholz on Saturday, he showed the depths of his knowledge and skills.
Finding a comfort level with Webster after spending much of the year with him at Triple-A Pawtucket, Vazquez wasn't afraid to go away from the fastball and use the breaking ball in a fastball count. That type of thinking got high praise from his manager after the game, and it helped Webster earn his second win of the season.
"You can see his leadership skills when he goes to the mound to talk to pitchers," Nieves said. "I've seen some fire in him to push the guys. He's also able to be firm. That relationship will grow."
Vazquez was behind the dish for all 19 innings the next night, acting like a hockey goalie, blocking balls off his neck and mask.
"I can't say enough about Vazquez and the way he caught every inning," Buchholz said after Saturday's game. "He saved runs multiple times. He is a good catcher. He has a chance to be really, really good."
While the team has been thrilled with the progress Vazquez continues to make on a daily basis, it's not like the Red Sox didn't see it coming.
"If you want to be a good catcher, you have to take on that personality. I could tell he had that quality the first time I saw him catch in Spring Training," Ross said. "He didn't shy away from conversation, and [he] understood what he wanted to do. He talked to the pitchers and figured out how to get the most out of them. He knows pitchers personalities. He is mature beyond his years. It is a unique role, but I think he's done a phenomenal job."
From an offensive standpoint, Farrell felt like Vazquez turned a corner with Double-A Portland in 2012. During that stretch, he was able to cut down his strikeout totals and increase his walks.
Then with Portland in 2013, Vazquez hit .289 with five home runs and 48 RBIs and had more walks (47) than strikeouts (44).
"I think he gained an awful lot of confidence coming out of that year," Farrell said. "This is a guy who went from developing into his body from a physical standpoint to becoming stronger and with greater endurance, and that strength has allowed him to maintain that approach at the plate."
That success rolled over into this season with Triple-A Pawtucket and now with the Red Sox. Vazquez has reached base safely in 15 of his last 17 starts, with a hit in 11 of those contests. He also has 11 RBIs in 20 at-bats with runners in scoring position.
"When you look at his approach at the plate, he's not a pull hitter. In situations where there's runners in scoring position, a young hitter, opposing teams might look to attack him with breaking balls, but the fact is, the bat head doesn't travel in and out of the zone. He's got good plate coverage away," Farrell said. "And he's got some very good baseball instincts."
For now, Vazquez is enjoying the ride, hoping to prove he's ready to be the Red Sox's starting catcher next season.
"It is fun here. You have a lot of veteran guys, and Rossie has really helped me a lot," Vazquez said. "He has taught me so much about pitching and calling games. He has helped me a lot. I'm working hard and getting better every day."
Quinn Roberts is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.