As soon as Daniel Nava gloved Jose Altuve’s fly ball to right field, Christian Vazquez positioned himself to field the throw at home plate as Jake Marisnick tagged up from third.
The Red Sox catcher fielded the throw at the foot of the first base line and lunged across the plate to tag Marisnick, completing a seventh-inning double play in Thursday’s 9-4 win over the Astros.
Vazquez sprung to his feet and delivered a hearty fist pump, showcasing the vigorous enthusiasm the Red Sox have become accustomed to seeing from the 23-year-old catcher.
Vazquez will often pump his fist after an inning-ending strikeout, and his excitement behind the plate has energized the pitching staff and his teammates.
“The passion that he shows and the energy he shows behind the plate, the pitchers feed off it,” manager John Farrell said before Friday’s game against the Astros. “We’ve seen a number of times, strike three and he’ll give a fist pump, and I think guys feed off his energy behind the plate.”
Vazquez’s animation is hardly scripted. He said it’s always been a part of his game, and he can sense how it fires up his teammates.
Since Vazquez was called up July 9, his energy behind the plate has been palpable. The excitement of playing in the major leagues is showing through.
“I like the energy because that pumps up the pitchers on my team and that helps everybody,” Vazquez said. “But I was always like that all my career. I like to bring energy to the table.
“I feel I’m playing the same game I was in Pawtucket, but I feel I bring more energy here because it’s my dream to play in the big leagues and I want to help my team.”
Vazquez has only been with the Red Sox for a little more than a month, but he feels like he has been here for 10 years. He is comfortable calling pitches and has a strong relationship with the pitchers.
“This is my family,” Vazquez said. “They’re great teammates. I can call my pitches and they don’t shake me off; that’s a big difference and it helps me a lot.”
Since veteran catcher David Ross was placed on the 15-day disabled list Aug. 2, Vazquez has had the opportunity to showcase his defensive skills, which are undoubtedly his strongest asset.
Most important, he works tirelessly to block pitches with his stocky frame. Entering Friday’s game, Vazquez had allowed just one passed ball in 189 innings.
His most notable performance was in the Red Sox’ 19-inning marathon against the Angels last Saturday, in which he caught all 272 pitches without a passed ball.
“The one thing he’s shown, whether it’s in his throws behind runners or his trips to the mound, or his game calling, the instincts are very, very good for a young player,” Farrell said.
“I think [the pitchers] appreciate his work back there. There’s never a ball that goes to the backstop. His blocking ability with all types of pitches in the dirt with two strikes is outstanding.”
Ross, who acknowledged he had high expectations for Vazquez, has been impressed with the youngster’s ability to manage a game.
“He’s a really good catcher, he cares, and he’s a great game-caller,” Ross said. “He’s still learning in some areas, but he’s learning on the fly. It’s been fun for me to watch him take hold of this staff and do a good job.”
While Vazquez is mechanically sound behind the plate, he has struggled in the batter’s box.
Vazquez was in a 2-for-23 slump entering Thursday’s game, but he broke through with a pair of hits in the win, adding a sacrifice fly that scored Nava in the Red Sox’ seven-run outburst in the sixth inning.
Vazquez’s slump snowballed in the 19-inning game, as he went 0 for 7. In his next start, Tuesday’s 3-2 win against the Reds, he was 0 for 3.
By then, he had had enough of his old Franklin batting gloves and dumped them in the trash, opting for a fresh pair Thursday.
Vazquez joked the new gloves helped his swing and he noted a difference in his approach.
“I feel good, I feel comfortable, and I trust myself,” Vazquez said. “I tried to do less. I was rushing myself and tried to do too much with my body, and now I’m using my hands to hit [to] the middle of the field.”Anthony Gulizia can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @gulizia_a.