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Red Sox notebook: Sandy Leon all but set to start at catcher

March 24, 2017

FORT MYERS — Some Red Sox people are gushing about Christian Vazquez again, but Sandy Leon is still the king of the backstops. Spring training stats mean little when it comes to evaluating these guys.

Based on his .310 average during the regular season last year, the Red Sox would be silly not to give Leon, hitting .261 this spring, another chance as their primary catcher. And that’s exactly what they plan on doing.

It’s all but official with 10 days left before Opening Day.

“We’re not naming the roster right now,” Sox manager John Farrell said. “We haven’t come to those decisions, and I think that’s a different scenario than the third base spot, particularly because it’s looked upon as a two-man job.

“But I think I’ve said many times over that if we’re opening tomorrow, Sandy Leon is going to be the catcher. And that hasn’t changed.”

Last week, Vazquez was said to have a pop time of 1.75 seconds, which means his throwing arm is back to pre-surgery levels.

“There aren’t too many guys in the game who can do that,” said bullpen coach Dana LeVangie.

Vazquez has been solid all-around, hitting .250, and projects as the No. 2 catcher.

Blake Swihart, the only catcher with options, will likely start at Triple-A Pawtucket, though he continues to impress. He threw out David Freese trying to steal second base yesterday after Steven Wright had thrown a knuckleball. Swihart is hitting .344.

It’s all Wright

Wright’s knuckleball did some work yesterday against the Pirates. He allowed two hits and no runs in 41/3 innings. They’re the only two hits Wright has allowed in 91/3 innings across three Grapefruit League starts.

“Feels good,” said Wright, who is expected to start the year in the rotation. “Obviously working with (Tim Wakefield) has helped me tremendously in trying to stay back and concentrate on changing speeds and getting the knuckleball to come out of the same spot every time. I felt pretty good today.”

A spring that was suspected to be slow and possibly painful for Wright has been anything but. The shoulder bursitis that caused him to miss the last two months of the 2016 season put him in a questionable status as he entered camp. He took it slow and is close to full strength with one more start before spring training ends.

“It’s getting a lot better,” Wright said. “I feel stronger. Every time I go out I feel like I can get what I need to get done. I’m not even thinking about anything with my shoulder. It feels good. Going out there and getting to the fifth inning today was a good test. First time I got up and down five times and I felt like I could’ve kept going. Obviously it’s getting near the end and I need to throw 80-90 pitches before the season starts, and there’s no reason I shouldn’t be able to.”

Schooling the farm

Rick Porcello overpowered a group of Red Sox farmhands in an intrasquad game that included top prospect Rafael Devers, former top prospect Mike Olt and former MVP candidate Carlos Quentin. The reigning Cy Young Award winner struck out nine and allowed just two hits in six innings. He threw 98 pitches and declared himself ready to go for his Opening Day start.

“I feel prepared,” Porcello said. “I definitely feel like there’s some things I can do to sharpen up. Right now, I feel like I could go out there and compete and I have pretty good stuff.”

Porcello will have one more start in which he’ll throw around 60 pitches.

Price can’t throw

David Price (elbow strain) is still not throwing.

“I think any time there is an injury the strength is going to take a hit, so we’re trying to get back to the levels at which he entered camp at and that’s the phase in which we are at,” he said. “So to say he has plateaued, I can’t really answer that right now. I don’t have those specifics. All I know is that as he’s kept his arm moving, as we continue to strengthen through the rehab and the plyometric work and the re-check, that’s where we are right now.” .?.?.

Drew Pomeranz (triceps stiffness) is set to throw about 60-65 pitches today against the Blue Jays. He was removed from his last start after two innings but said he’s been feeling better since.