TORONTO — The Red Sox won the first five games rookie Christian Vazquez played, something no catcher in team history had done. It’s an unusual little bit of trivia but indicative at the same time.
Vazquez, 23, arrived in the majors with uncommon defensive ability and that has translated into success. Red Sox pitchers have a 1.80 earned run average in those five games.
“It’s been fun,” Vazquez said Tuesday. “The team is doing well right now and that’s the biggest thing. It’s a lot different because everything matters here. It’s all about winning. It’s not like the minors.”
Vazquez twice has caught John Lackey, including seven strong innings Monday night.
“It’s a hard position for a rookie being a catcher, especially when you have a bunch of veteran starters like we do. But he has a real good feel,” Lackey said.
“He’s easy to talk to about what you want to do and incorporate the game plan. Plus his physical tools are awesome.”
Manager John Farrell was impressed with how well Vazquez communicated with Lackey on Monday, going to the mound when needed and making sure both were in synch.
“To hear the conversation in-between innings and then see it play out the following innings, it was a great moment by John to take Christian under his wing a little bit,” Farrell said.
Farrell said Vazquez has been “exceptional” at framing pitches and blocking balls in the dirt. Farrell and bullpen coach Dana LeVangie said Vazquez has dropped one pitch in his five games. That’s a vast difference from A.J. Pierzynski, the catcher dumped to make room for Vazquez.
“Christian has been schooled well along the way,” LeVangie said. “He has the right technique, the way he sets up and stays low. He also has strong hands and trusts his hands. He is so athletic and plays under control.”
LeVangie said Vazquez has the ability to let the ball come to him in his crouch and not reach to stab it. That leads to more strike calls by umpires. He also can hold onto low pitches, even fastballs, with little movement.
“I’ll throw him anything and I know he can stop it,” Lackey said.
For Vazquez, the biggest challenge has been utilizing the mountain of scouting and statistical information available.
“We didn’t have that in the minors, there’s so much more. You get everything,” he said. “[David] Ross helps me figure it out quickly, so I can help the pitchers. It’ll take me a little time to get to know everybody in the league, but I’ll get there.”
Farrell said the Red Sox are judicious in how much information they give Vazquez. More will be added over time as he learns how best to utilize the data.
David Ortiz is at that stage of his career when every home run seems to be some kind of milestone.
The two homers he hit Monday gave Ortiz 453 for his career. That moved him past Carl Yastrzemski for 36th place all-time. Although Ortiz homered in the eighth Tuesday, Adam Dunn of the White Sox cleared the fence in Chicago to stay one ahead on the all-time list. Ortiz needs eight more to catch Jose Canseco.
Ortiz has 44 multi-homer games in his career, tied with Hall of Famers Mike Schmidt and Willie McCovey for 20th in history.
Since 2003, only Albert Pujols has more multi-homer games (46).
Ortiz’s 396 home runs with the Red Sox trail only Ted Williams (521) and Yastrzemski. His 36 home runs at Rogers Centre tied him with Alex Rodriguez for the most by an opposing player.
Ready to rumble?
Lefthander David Price is the scheduled starter for the Rays against the Red Sox on Friday night at Tropicana Field. Price last faced the Red Sox on May 30 and sparked a bench-clearing incident when he hit Ortiz and Mike Carp with pitches.
Price essentially acknowledged after the game that he hit Ortiz on purpose in the first inning in retaliation for a home run Ortiz hit in the Division Series last October and watched land.
Ortiz tried to get at Price after the benches cleared and later said Price should be prepared to fight if he hits him again.
“I have no respect for him no more,” Ortiz said after the game.
Brandon Workman threw behind the head of Tampa Bay’s Evan Longoria in the sixth inning and was ejected. Workman then was hit with a six-game suspension.
The upcoming non-waiver trade deadline of July 31 could add to the drama. The game could be the last Price pitches for the Rays.
Jays tweak roster
Toronto made a series of moves before the game. Shortstop Ryan Goins, righthander Esmil Rogers, and righthander Aaron Sanchez were called up from Triple A Buffalo.
Catcher Erik Kratz and outfielder Darin Mastroianni were optioned to Buffalo and lefthander Brad Mills was designated for assignment.
Sanchez, one of the team’s top prospects, will work out of the bullpen.
Sanchez, 22, was the 34th overall pick of the 2010 draft and had a 3.95 ERA in 22 appearances in the minors this season.
Wondering why Brock Holt is not including among the league leaders in batting average? Players need 3.1 plate appearances per team game to qualify and Holt is six shy of that standard. He should catch up within a few games. Holt is hitting .321, which would put him in the top six in the American League . . . Will Middlebrooks was 2 for 5 for Triple A Pawtucket and is 7 of 18 in his latest rehab assignment . . . Ryan Lavarnway, rehabbing with Double A Portland, was 1 for 3. He is coming back from wrist surgery . . . Veteran outfielder Andres Torres, signed to a minor league contract in June for depth purposes, is on the inactive list at Pawtucket. Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington said earlier this month that Torres had an out in his contract and that decision is due. Torres has hit .292 in 18 games for Pawtucket, but the Sox have a crowded outfield in the majors with the return of Shane Victorino from the disabled list and the emergence of Holt . . . Canadian tennis player Milos Raonic threw out the first pitch. To be accurate, he hit a tennis ball with his racquet over the head of Mark Buehrle.