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Christian Vazquez is back, but the Red Sox No. 1 catcher job is up for grabs

Christian Vazquez missed seven weeks of action with a broken right pinkie.Charles Krupa/AP

CHICAGO — The Red Sox activated catcher Christian Vazquez off the disabled list on Saturday and started him in the Red Sox’ 6-1 victory over the White Sox. He went 0 for 3 with a walk.

Blake Swihart is lined up to start on Sunday afternoon and catch Brian Johnson.

Sandy Leon, ostensibly the starting catcher, is now in a competition for playing time with a month left in the regular season.

Manager Alex Cora agreed with the idea that the job was up for grabs.

“I think it’s fair, yeah,” he said.

Leon is an exceptional defensive catcher and several of the starting pitchers speak of his work in reverential tones. But he has hit .143 with a .440 OPS in 41 games since July 1.


The Sox leaned heavily on Leon after Vazquez broke his right pinkie finger on July 7 and the workload seems to have affected him at the plate. Leon is chasing pitches and trying to pull everything.

“The results are not there. There are certain at-bats we know can be better,” Cora said. “Hopefully he gets it.”

Swihart, a forgotten player early in the season, hit .277 with a .734 OPS when Vazquez was on the disabled list and he was pressed into playing more often. The Sox were 5-6 in the games he started as catcher.

Swihart has gained the coaching staff’s trust in the last month with his improved work behind the plate, especially with blocking pitches in the dirt. Cora pinch hit Swihart for Leon in the seventh inning on Wednesday and again Thursday knowing that meant Swihart would catch the final innings of what were close games.

That would not have happened a month ago.

“Blake defensively is doing an outstanding job,” Cora said. “I know how comfortable we are with Sandy with certain guys. But at the same time, he’s been catching late in the games with the game on the line . . . He’s going to be in the mix.”


Via his agent, Swihart requested a trade in May. The Red Sox dismissed that idea, feeling Swihart would prove valuable.

“I bet there were certain days he didn’t want to talk to me,” Cora said. “I know that. Been there, done that. But he always kept working. He’s here now and his role is a big one.”

Swihart has more defensive innings at other positions than he does behind the plate. But he feels he’s making a case.

“It’s getting there,” Swihart said. “Being healthy is the biggest thing. I’ve always thought I could do it.”

Vazquez was the starting catcher to open the season, then lost playing time to Leon. Now he’s back from the disabled list.

“I’m ready,” Vazquez said. “I’ll catch every game I can.”

Having one player take hold of the position would be ideal. But the Red Sox switched from Jarrod Saltalamacchia to David Ross during the 2013 postseason and went on to win the World Series.

“I know it’s hard to catch three guys in a week. I’ve been saying that,” Cora said. “But I’ll figure it out.

“It looks weird. But at the same time whoever is behind the plate is capable of calling the game and contributing offensively. We feel comfortable with all of them. That’s on me now, how we’re going to play them. They understand everybody has to be ready.”


Price, Sale progress

The rotation is as unsettled as the catching situation these days. But the two best starters had positive days on Saturday.

David Price played catch for the first time since he was hit in the left wrist by a line drive on Wednesday. It wasn’t at full speed but Price threw without any discomfort.

“It was a good first step,” Cora said.

Price is scheduled to throw again on Sunday, perhaps in the bullpen, and at that point should be able to tell the Sox when he can start again.

“He’ll let it fly a little bit tomorrow and we’ll go from there,” Cora said.

After Price threw, Chris Sale went to the bullpen and threw approximately 20 pitches. It was his sixth consecutive day of throwing.

“He feels that good,” Cora said. “I know we have to be careful but at the same time we have to trust the player. Sometimes you’ve got to please them.”

Sale has not pitched since Aug. 12 because of shoulder inflammation.

Now that he has pitched off a mound, it starts a progression that should lead to throwing live batting practice and then to a game.

For a first-place team, the Red Sox have a very unsettled rotation. Cora admitted it’s uncomfortable.

“It is. We have the same thing with the bullpen,” he said.

A first for Bogaerts

The soft-spoken and pious Leon is the Red Sox player least likely to be ejected. But Xander Bogaerts was a close second, at least until Friday night.


When he struck out to end the seventh inning, Bogaerts flipped his bat away and was ejected by umpire Will Little as he walked back to the dugout.

A 3-0 pitch from Juan Minaya was clearly off the plate but called a strike. The frustration built from there when Bogaerts took two more called strikes.

Bogaerts, who said he had never been ejected at any level, muttered a mild epithet.

“I think [Little] had a long night also,” Bogaerts said after a 6-1 loss. “I did not deserve it but he did it.”

Cora argued Bogaerts’s case but was not tossed. Rick Porcello was then ejected from the dugout after shouting at Little in the bottom of the inning.

“He deserved that one,” Cora said.

A nice retirement gift

Mookie Betts’s mother, Diana Benedict, celebrated her retirement last week. When her co-workers threw a party, Betts joined via video and gave his mom a Porsche Cayenne as a gift . . . The Sox need a starter for Wednesday’s game in Atlanta. One candidate is Drew Pomeranz, who threw four shutout innings in relief on Friday . . . The Sox are planning to leave Rafael Devers on his rehab assignment with Pawtucket through the end of the Triple A season on Monday. Devers, went 1 for 4 with a two-run home run Saturday. He also will have to earn back his playing time once he does comes back with Eduardo Nunez playing well at third base. “One thing’s for sure, Raffy’s got to play better,” Cora said. “That’s the bottom line. We’re here to win games and whoever’s playing best is going to play.” . . . The Red Sox recalled five players from Pawtucket — righthander William Cuevas, infielder Tzu-Wei Lin, lefthander Bobby Poyner, lefthander Robby Scott and infielder Sam Travis — with rosters expanding. President of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski said there could be more after the minor league season ends, but not necessarily. The Red Sox will not add righthanded reliever Durbin Feltman, their third-round draft pick. The 21-year-old Feltman pitched well at three levels after the draft but the Sox never saw him as a consideration for the majors this season . . . If the Sox need an extra outfielder, Lin will be a candidate. He played nine games in center field for Pawtucket this season . . . In partnership with Stand Up To Cancer, players and coaches from both teams joined with other clubs in wearing gold wristbands and ribbons in recognition of Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.


Peter Abraham can be reached at pabraham@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @peteabe.