Christian Vazquez will have season-ending elbow surgery
FORT MYERS, Fla. — The Red Sox were waiting for a punch, and it came on Wednesday with the news that catcher Christian Vazquez will miss the season because of Tommy John surgery on his right elbow.
Dr. James Andrews examined Vazquez at his clinic in Gulf Breeze, Fla., and confirmed the original diagnosis of a torn ulnar collateral ligament. He will perform the surgery Thursday.
Barring any setback, Vazquez should be available for the start of the 2016 season.
The Red Sox were anticipating the worst and have already moved to patch the roster by promoting veteran backup Ryan Hanigan into the starting role and trading for Sandy Leon to be his backup.
But the loss of Vazquez could alter the course of their season. The 24-year-old from Puerto Rico is a gifted receiver with a strong arm who quickly earned the trust of the pitching staff after making his major league debut last season.
Scouts and statistical analysts agreed that Vazquez impacted games with his ability to frame pitches in the strike zone, block low pitches, and control the running game. Vazquez threw out 15 of 29 base stealers last season in 55 games.
“He’s special,” Red Sox starter Rick Porcello said last week. “I’ve literally never thrown to a catcher who can do the sort of things he can do. He gives you a lot of confidence as a pitcher.”
Vazquez, who arrived at spring training early to work with the pitching staff, was injured on March 13 making a throw against the Yankees. It was initially thought the injury was minor and would respond to rest. When Vazquez did not sufficiently improve, an MRI was taken that showed a tear.
Buchholz looks solid
In his final spring training game before starting on Opening Day, Clay Buchholz pitched four shutout innings against the Twins in a split-squad game at Hammond Stadium.
Buchholz threw 57 pitches, allowed six hits, walked one, and struck out four. Buchholz threw all his secondary pitches for strikes and his fastball, consistently at 91-92 m.p.h., topped out at 94. He did not reach that mark until July last season.
“It’s night and day for me,” Buchholz said. “Right now, whenever I feel like I need to reach back and get a little extra, it’s not in a max-effort level where I’m not staying within the delivery. That just goes to the work that I put in with the delivery this offseason and early this camp, all the bullpens.”
Buchholz said his ability to pitch under control and make adjustments from pitch to pitch echoes how he felt at the start of the 2013 season, when he went 12-1 with a 1.74 ERA in 16 starts.
“Whenever I feel like I spin off or something, I feel it and I feel like I make the adjustment quicker than I did a year ago,” he said. “It feels pretty similar to the spring training in 2013 I had. It feels like everything is working and it’s getting better with each time out.”
Manager John Farrell described the outing as “a good sendoff to the opener,” suggesting that the ease with which Buchholz operated on the mound continued something he’s seen all spring.
Buchholz had a 2.84 ERA in spring training.
Farrell has not said for certain that Justin Masterson will start the third game of the season.
“That’s one version,” he said. “Probably likely that Masterson finds himself in the three hole.’’
Another version is the Red Sox plug knuckleballer Steven Wright into that slot and push Masterson back. That also could allow the Sox to give Buchholz an extra day of rest.
“We continue to get information on opponents and what’s the best matchup for us,” Farrell said.
Kelly gets stronger
Joe Kelly got to four innings and 65 pitches in a minor league game at Fenway South. He is expected to start the season on the disabled list after missing time with biceps tendinitis. Kelly would be eligible to return April 11 but may not be ready then . . . Wade Miley will stay behind for a day and pitch in a minor league intrasquad game on Sunday at Fenway South. He will start the fourth game of the season against the Yankees in New York . . . Porcello, the Game 2 starter in Philadelphia, is scheduled to go three innings against the Twins Thursday night at Hammond Stadium. Craig Breslow, Robbie Ross Jr., Brandon Workman, and Matt Barnes will follow . . . Marathon bombing survivor Jessica Kensky threw out the first pitch to Shane Victorino. She and 11 other survivors then announced “Play Ball” to as the crowd gave them an ovation.