ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — The Red Sox have leaned heavily on Sandy Leon since Christian Vazquez broke his right pinkie sliding into second base on July 7.
Leon has caught 29 of the 41 games since and come off the bench to catch at least one inning in three other games. But the Red Sox should soon have more depth at the position.
Vazquez is set to start an injury rehabilitation assignment with Double A Portland on Monday night at Hadlock Field against New Hampshire.
Vazquez will then report to Triple A Pawtucket on Tuesday. The plan will be to alternate between catching and being the DH at first before building up to catch consecutive games.
“I’m not worried about the at-bats. I’m more worried about him behind the plate,” manager Alex Cora said on Saturday. “He hasn’t played in a while. We have to be honest with each other . . . we need him to be OK.
“It would be a shame if he comes back, starts playing, and gets hurt. That would be tough for us.”
The minor league season ends Sept. 3, so Vazquez could get eight games in. The plan would be to bring Vazquez back after rosters expand Sept. 1.
“He needs his innings,” Cora said.
Vazquez has been catching in the bullpen and taking batting practice.
“I think I can get ready in a week maybe,” he said. “My finger feels good. I just need to play.”
One way or another
It has been nearly seven weeks since Dustin Pedroia returned home to Arizona to continue rehab work on his surgically repaired left knee. While there has been progress, it’s slow.
“He’s doing OK. Having good days, bad days,” Cora said. “Mostly good days. It’s different now. He’s kind of learning how to run using the other muscles. You get used to doing something a certain way and all of a sudden they’re teaching you to do it right. It’s not that easy.
“He feels he’s going to contribute this year. I feel the same way. It’s a matter of how much time we have.”
There appears to be little chance Pedroia will play again this season. But the plan is for him to rejoin the team at some point regardless.
“If we run out of time, I know he can contribute in the dugout. It would be good for him to be around. He’ll be back,” Cora said.
Phillips bides time
The Red Sox signed three-time All-Star Brandon Phillips to a minor league contract on June 27 to improve their depth at second base when it became clear Pedroia would have a long stint on the disabled list.
Phillips, who had not played since last season, was slowed by some minor injuries early on. The Red Sox then traded for Ian Kinsler on July 30 and committed to using him at second base.
Phillips had several opportunities to opt out of his deal but stayed with Pawtucket. He’s now one of the hottest players in the International League.
Through Friday, Phillips was hitting .328 with an .873 OPS for Pawtucket. He had 18 RBIs and 14 extra-base hits in 31 games and had played well defensively at second base and third base.
Phillips does not have any more opt-outs in his deal and is committed to the PawSox through the end of their season Sept. 3.
The Sox have no commitment to promote Phillips when rosters expand on Sept. 1, a team source said. Any team interested in adding Phillips would need to make a deal before Sept. 1 for him to be eligible for the postseason.
As far as Cora is concerned, his brother won Players Weekend.
Joey Cora, Pittsburgh’s third base coach, had “I’m The Brother” on the back of his uniform. It was a subtle dig at the people who mistake him for his brother.
“He killed it,” Cora said. “It was cool . . . very genuine.”
Cora did not know what his brother planned until he saw a photograph on Twitter.
“It was a hit in the family,” Cora said.
Cora predicted that Chris Sale would start a throwing program when the team returns home Tuesday. The lefthander has been shut down since his last start, on Aug. 14, because of shoulder inflammation . . . Steven Wright’s rehab assignment should start at the end of this week. He is returning from left knee inflammation . . . The Red Sox had 13 hits in Friday night’s 10-3 loss against the Rays, all singles. It was the first time since Aug. 27, 1974, the Sox had that many hits without any being for extra bases . . . Hall of Famer Wade Boggs threw out the first pitch. Boggs played only 213 games for the Rays from 1998-99 but the team retired his No. 12. Boggs had his 3,000th hit while a member of the Rays in 1999.