JUPITER, Fla. — Christian Vazquez makes Yadier Molina proud.
“He’s a great kid, and he’s a great catcher,” said Molina, the Cardinals catcher. “We didn’t work out this winter, but we have in the past. We text each other all the time. He asks a lot of questions. He wants to be the best.
“He’s from Puerto Rico like me, and I like to help anyone I can from where I’m from. But Christian is special. The way he handles himself behind the plate. He’s made a lot of progress. I’m not surprised he’s in position to be their starter.”
Molina said he has helped the young Red Sox catcher in the past with framing pitches and his footwork. He says they text back and forth during the season and Vazquez asks a lot of questions about situations.
In addition to his defensive prowess, Molina has emerged as an outstanding hitter as well.
“I think the hitting is something that’s tougher to talk about,” Molina said. “Every hitter comes around at a different time. It happened for me after some time. Christian is very dedicated.”
Asked if it’s neat that players want to be like him, Molina said, “Oh yeah. That’s great. Makes you feel good, but it makes you feel better that they want my advice. I’ll always help him, but he’s going to reach the point where he’s going to be a great player on his own.”
Former Cardinal Allen Craig wanted to make the trip to his old spring training stomping grounds. He wanted to say hello to old friends in a familiar place.
Craig, who went 0 for 4 in Monday’s 3-0 victory over the Cardinals, was asked if he could get back to where he was two years ago, before he suffered a Lisfranc injury in his foot. “Absolutely,” he said.
Craig has been a tremendous clutch hitter throughout his career and has performed well in the postseason. But there is no room at the inn with Boston.
“Stronger base to his stance. His bat speed is better,” manager John Farrell said. “Despite what he went through last year, he’s been a productive hitter. His timing is better, the foot issue is behind him. We expect him to regain his levels of hitting previously. He’s in a better place physically and mentally right now.”
Farrell was grilled about Craig’s role Monday, and the word “challenge” came up a lot in terms of how to use him.
The manager was asked whether there could be a competition at first base, with Mike Napoli in the final year of his contract and Craig having three years remaining on a team-friendly deal if he produces.
Farrell didn’t foresee it. In fact, he said Craig has been told that he’ll get outfield reps, first base reps, and DH reps when David Ortiz needs a day off. That doesn’t add up to a lot of at-bats.
“It’ll be an adjustment for him,” said Farrell. “He’s used to being an everyday player. We expect him to be on this team. Let’s get him the appropriate number of at-bats in spring training and go from there. He understands the situation.”
Craig has never used the foot injury as an excuse, but it obviously was a factor.
Rusney Castillo is making good progress as he recovers from a strained left oblique, Farrell said. Castillo, who hurt himself last Tuesday swinging at an inside pitch, was scheduled to take dry swings and shag fly balls during batting practice Monday. Farrell wasn’t sure when he would start playing again. Farrell also said that barring something unforseen, Shane Victorino would be in the lineup Tuesday in Fort Myers against the Rays. Also on the injury front, Quintin Berry has a weightlifting injury (back spasms).
In an interview with Bleacher Report, Pablo Sandoval ripped the Giants, saying that leaving them was “not hard at all.” The hard feelings seem to stem from the Giants waiting until they were competing with the Red Sox and Padres to go after him. “If you want me around, you make the effort to push and get me back,” Sandoval said. He said he knew he was leaving in spring training last season and wanted to soak it all in. “I knew early in spring training last year I was going to leave,” Sandoval said. “They didn’t respect my agent. Contract talks, everything. The way [general manager] Brian Sabean talked to my agent.” Sandoval also said the only two people he’ll miss are manager Bruce Bochy and outfielder Hunter Pence.
Farrell continues to rave about Matt Barnes, who recorded a two-inning save. Scouts have been saying for the past year that Barnes has closer stuff. Even Farrell seems to have come around on the idea of Barnes as an effective weapon in the bullpen, though he held back on pegging him as such after Monday’s outing. Farrell said Barnes’s stuff is undeniable. He was throwing his fastball at 95-97 miles per hour.