BOSTON — Blake Swihart reached into his locker and who knew what he would pull out. Any one of three gloves? Or bats? Or the scouting manual on that day’s opposing batters?

Busy guy. For all that Swihart does before games, he isn’t yet doing much for the Boston Red Sox.

“It’s a challenge,” Manager Alex Cora said about getting Swihart in the lineup.

But where to put Swihart?

“I’m a catcher, left fielder, infielder, but I haven’t played a position yet,” Swihart said Thursday.

Swihart, 26, is not only a non-starter, he’s not the No. 1 backup at any position. He’s the No. 3 catcher, and No. 3 or 4 at third base, left field and first base.


Swihart finally played the field Saturday, subbing in at first base for the ninth inning.

The Red Sox obviously value Swihart because they kept him. He was out of minor league options so instead of letting Swihart go, Boston squeezed him onto the roster. Now he waits.

“Whatever I need to do to help this team, I’m going to do. I’ve just got to be ready,” he said.

“Get my work in every day – catch my bullpens, take ground balls, get reads off the bat in the outfield.”

Is that all?

“I’m in all the (pitcher/catcher) meetings, going over the scouting reports, doing everything I can to be ready.”


Beside his versatility, Boston likes Swihart’s bat. He’s a switch hitter who showed promise when first called up in 2015 – a .274 batting average with five home runs in 84 games.

That seems like ages ago, and even longer since Swihart showed up in Portland in 2014, just shy of his 22nd birthday. He batted .300 for the Sea Dogs and was in Triple-A by August.

Swihart figured to stay in Pawtucket in 2015 to work on his catching, but a series of injuries brought him to Boston. Christian Vazquez was out after Tommy John surgery and Ryan Hanigan broke his hand in May, leaving only the recently acquired Sandy Leon. Swihart was called up and became the No. 1 catcher.

Going into the 2016 season, Boston had Hanigan, Leon, a recovering Vazquez and Swihart. Leon was out of minor league options so Swihart went to Pawtucket and Vazquez to the DL. Leon would bat .310 in 2016.

Wanting to get Swihart in the major league lineup (and with Brock Holt on the DL), Boston summoned Swihart to play left field. A month later, on June 4, he collided with the left-field wall, suffered ligament damage in his left ankle and underwent surgery. That knocked him out of 2016 and slowed his development in 2017. He played in 68 games last year, nine in Boston.

In spring training this year, Swihart mostly caught but also played six games in left, four at first and two at third base. He said his ankle feels “awesome.”


“We’re comfortable putting him in left field,” Cora said. “Feeling better about third base. But it’s going to be tough (finding playing time).”

After Saturday’s brief appearance, Swihart has been in four games – previously as the designated hitter, a pinch hitter and a pinch runner. He’s 1 for 5 with a single and a walk.

Meanwhile, Leon remains the backup catcher. Eduardo Nunez played third base the one game Rafael Devers rested. Designated hitter J.D. Martinez also plays left sometimes. Mitch Moreland will spell Hanley Ramirez at first. And Holt plays anywhere.

Swihart is good insurance in case of injury, but can Boston keep him all season? What happens when Dustin Pedroia returns from the DL (possibly in late May)?

Those are questions for later. For now Swihart is back in the big leagues … waiting.

FLAHERTY EN FUEGO: Signing Ryan Flaherty just before the season turned out to be a nice pickup for the Atlanta Braves. Flaherty, 31, the Portland native, was batting .400 (10 for 25) through Friday, with four doubles and five walks. His OPS was a hefty 1.076.


Flaherty, a free agent after six years with the Orioles, was in training camp with the Phillies but asked for his release when it was clear he wasn’t going to be on the roster. The Braves swooped in.

And to think, Flaherty has yet to bat in Fenway Park this season, where he plays his best. The Braves come to Boston on May 25-27.

FAST-TRACK ARMS: The Red Sox are pushing their pitching prospects. Tanner Houck, the 2017 first-round draft out of Missouri, is jumping to advanced Class A Salem in his first full pro season (after 22 innings in Lowell last year). And Alex Scherff, a fifth-round pick out of high school, will throw his first pro pitches in low Class A Greenville.

Kevin Thomas can be reached at 791-6411 or:

[email protected]

Twitter: @ClearTheBases

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