KANSAS CITY, Mo. — It looks like an oven mitt, the protective device many major leaguers wear while running the bases. Christian Vazquez tried it for the first time on Saturday night when he reached base in the seventh inning against Kansas City.
The Red Sox trainers mandated the mitt because Vazquez had been having some issues with his right thumb.
But when he slid headfirst into second base on an uncontested delayed steal, Vazquez broke the pinky finger on his hand and on Sunday went on the 10-day disabled list.
Vazquez caught the bottom of the inning before coming out. It bothered him throwing but he didn’t mention it until he returned to the dugout.
“I’m tough,” Vazquez said.
As for the mitt, he won’t be using it again. He said his finger got caught in the dirt, although he didn’t realize it was fractured.
“That was my first time wearing it and the last time,” Vazquez said. “It got stuck during that slide.”
Manager Alex Cora watched a replay and couldn’t see how Vazquez broke his finger. A bigger issue is how poorly many of the Red Sox players slide.
“He went headfirst. It wasn’t the prettiest slide at second. But it is what it is,” Cora said. “We’ve talked about sliding already with Raffy [Devers] and Xander [Bogaerts].
“Right when it happened, I turned around to J.D. [Martinez] and said, ‘You know what? First thing we’re going to do in spring training next year is slide . . . you guys are bad.’ ”
The team’s hand specialist, Dr. Matthew Leibman, is set to examine Vazquez on Monday. That should give the Sox a better sense of how long he will be out.
“It sucks. But I’ll soon get back. Two or three weeks, I hope,” Vazquez said.
Sandy Leon caught Sunday’s 7-4 victory against Kansas City and Cora said the team plans to lean heavily on him for the remaining seven games ahead of the All-Star break.
Leon had an .861 OPS in 19 games dating back to May 19 before going 0 for 5 on Sunday.
“Sandy’s swinging the bat well,” Cora said. “He’s driving the ball; he’s driving in runs [and] obviously what he does behind the plate.”
But the plan is for Blake Swihart to catch Eduardo Rodriguez on Monday night against Texas.
“That’s what I’ve been trying to get ready for all year, whenever my name was going to get called,” Swihart said. “I’ve been putting in the work.”
Swihart caught only 14 innings and started one game as the catcher this season. But at least temporarily, he will be needed.
“I think the more I get involved in games and catch these guys, it’ll be better and better each time,” Swihart said. “I’ve been trying to do all I can to stay prepared.”
Vazquez was hitting .213 with a .548 OPS. Sox pitchers also have a lower earned run average with Leon (3.13) than they do Vazquez (3.76). So more of Leon could be an advantage in the short term.
But the Sox will need to be cautious they don’t wear down Leon, as happened in 2016 when he became the starter while Vazquez was recovering from Tommy John surgery.
Johnson to DL
Brian Johnson was placed on the 10-day disabled list with inflammation in his left hip. The move was retroactive to July 5, so Johnson could return next Sunday.
“We feel he could be back sooner rather than later,” Cora said. “Making this move, it’s the right thing to do.”
Johnson said he has never had issues with his hips before but was sore when he reported to the park on Friday.
“I think it was just something that sparked up from playing baseball,” he said.
Johnson played catch from 90 feet on Sunday and hopes to return when eligible. He had a 3.12 earned run average on two starts after replacing Drew Pomeranz in the rotation.
Rodriguez will start on Monday on regular rest. Tuesday’s starter has not been determined but Hector Velazquez is the leading candidate.
The Sox called up righthanders William Cuevas and Ryan Brasier from Triple A Pawtucket. Cuevas has been starting in the minors and could supplement Velazquez on Tuesday.
Brasier is a reliever who was recently named to the International League All-Star team. He has 13 saves and a 1.34 ERA. The 30-year-old pitched seven games for the Angels in 2013 and was with the Hiroshima Carp in Japan last season.
“We feel his stuff, it can play here,” Cora said.
Martinez sits out
J.D. Martinez fouled a pitch off his right foot and another off his left calf on Saturday and didn’t play on Sunday. He should be back on Monday . . . Joe Kelly, who left Saturday’s game with lightheadedness, was cleared to pitch and played catch before the game. He was apparently dehydrated . . . The Pawtucket coaching staff gave positive feedback on Pomeranz, who allowed one run on five hits over three innings with two walks and one strikeout against Scranton on Saturday. Pomeranz showed smoother mechanics and sat at 90 miles per hour with his fastball. Cora indicated another rehab start was likely to make sure the lefty was ready . . . To make room for Brasier on the 40-man roster, righthanded reliever Austin Maddox was shifted to the 60-day disabled list . . . Brandon Phillips was 1 for 3 with a three-run homer for Single A Lowell and played five innings at second base. The veteran big leaguer is 3 for 6 in two games for the Spinners. Phillips signed a minor league deal with the Sox last month.