Swihart Staying Put For Red Sox
BOSTON—In high school, Blake Swihart received instruction at the Albuquerque Baseball Academy from Ryan Kellner, a former catcher in the Dodgers system.
As he watched the promising young player, Kellner saw similarities to Russell Martin, so he suggested that Swihart experiment with life behind the plate. He also suggested that the righthanded Swihart try his hand at switch-hitting.
"If he walks into a showcase and teams see a 'C' for catcher and 'S' for switch-hitter, immediately there's some interest," Kellner said. "That's kind of how it came to where we put Blake, where people were forced to see his ability."
Indeed they were. Though signability questions surrounded him, Swihart emerged as one of the top prep prospects in the 2011 draft. The Red Sox jumped at the chance to take him with the 26th overall pick from Cleveland High in Rio Rancho, N.M.
Some organizations thought Swihart might end up playing a position—perhaps third base—where his bat could allow for a fast track to the majors.
Boston put those thoughts to rest shortly after signing Swihart for $2.5 million just seconds before the August deadline. They assigned the 20-year-old to low Class A Greenville to begin 2012.
"You'll have to go through me," Red Sox catching instructor Chad Epperson joked of moving Swihart from catcher. "Not right now. No chance. I don't think anyone in their right mind is going to let that happen right now.
"This guy is a catcher and we're going to give him every opportunity to settle in behind the plate. He's one of these kids you come across very seldom, that kind of athleticism at that age and that kind of maturity. It's exciting."
For the first time that Swihart can remember, he has a defined position, and he's eager to work at it.
"My whole life, I've never had a set position. This is the first time that I haven't moved around," Swihart said. "Catching really is a whole different breed. You're in every game, every situation."
• For the second time in three years, righthander Kyle Stroup suffered a torn ACL near the end of spring training that will require surgery and likely cost him the season.
• Matt Barnes, Boston's top pick in the 2011 draft, will open his pro career in Greenville, though he would be a candidate to move quickly to high Class A Salem with a strong performance.