NEW YORK The Boston Red Sox are hoping to recharge their pitching staff by changing the battery.
Catcher Blake Swihart, once a top prospect and promising piece for Boston’s future, was designated for assignment Tuesday, and veteran Sandy Leon was called up from Triple-A.
The World Series champions are just 6-11 coming into a two-game series at Yankee Stadium, mostly because of pitching. The club’s starters entered Tuesday with a 7.18 ERA, worst in the majors. The entire staff has a 5.93 ERA, ranking 28th out of 30 major league teams.
And so in comes Leon, a backstop beloved by Boston’s pitchers for his pitch calling and defense. He’ll split time with Christian Vazquez, while Swihart’s time with the organization is likely done.
Speaking ahead of the opener of a two-game series at Yankee Stadium, Red Sox president Dave Dombrowski said the catchers aren’t at fault for the early pitching woes, but that Leon’s game management could be part of the solution.
“There’s a comfort level,” manager Alex Cora said. “We know what he’s done the last few years.”
Dombrowski said the team had a “split camp” when it took Swihart north out of spring training and placed Leon on waivers. The club was pleasantly surprised when Leon went unclaimed and stashed him at Triple-A Pawtucket – quality insurance if Vazquez or Swihart was injured.
Following an 8-1 loss to Baltimore on Monday, personnel from the front office and coaching staff met for 90 minutes during a travel delay. Cora called it a “casual,” big-picture conversation. By the end, both sides agreed that Leon’s presence might be what the club needs.
The 27-year-old Swihart was a first-round pick by Boston in 2011 and quickly became one of the club’s most promising young players. The switch-hitter hasn’t delivered at the plate, batting .255 with nine homers and a .679 OPS in 203 games, and he’s a less reliable defender than Leon or Vazquez.
The Red Sox can either trade Swihart or hope he clears waivers for a minor league assignment. The team isn’t hopeful that Swihart would go unclaimed.
“I’ll be surprised if nothing happens with him,” Cora said.
Leon caught 87 games for the World Series champions last year. He’s a career .226 hitter and doesn’t have much power, but he’s carved out a seven-year big league career because of his defense.
“I told Sandy, ‘Don’t feel like you have to come here and be the savior,“’ Cora said. “It doesn’t work that way.”
Right-hander Erasmo Ramirez also was brought up Tuesday. He replaced Marcus Walden, who was sent down Monday.
Outfielder Andrew Benintendi was held out of the lineup Tuesday after fouling a ball off his foot Sunday, but he was available to play. Second baseman Dustin Pedroia was also held out, part of his regularly planned rest as he returns from a knee injury. Outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. returned to the lineup after sitting Monday with the flu.
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