Versatile Swihart catching on with D-backs

Lovullo wants club's new acquisition to play all over diamond

April 23rd, 2019

PITTSBURGH -- When the Red Sox traveled to play the D-backs at Chase Field earlier this month, was already planning his move.

Not from one team to the other. Rather, the Rio Rancho, N.M., native was eyeing real estate in Arizona, hoping to move closer to family and friends this offseason. Fast forward to Monday -- just a couple weeks after that series -- and Swihart is representing Arizona, trying on his first D-backs uniform and meeting his new teammates.

“They’ve welcomed me with open arms,” Swihart said, “and it’s been a steady transition so far. It’s been relaxing.”

The D-backs acquired Swihart on Friday from the Red Sox, who were set on carrying two catchers this season, leaving the former first-round pick as the odd man out. Arizona -- which optioned right-hander Jimmie Sherfy to Triple-A Reno in a corresponding move -- has a stockpile of catching depth, too, with Carson Kelly, John Ryan Murphy and Caleb Joseph on the roster and Alex Avila inching closer to a return from the 10-day injured list. But the D-backs seek to get more out of Swihart than a serviceable backstop.

“We have three really good catchers here right now, so we’re going to stand pat with those three that we have,” D-backs manager Torey Lovullo said. “Blake’s versatility is going to come up in a big way for us in other ways right now.

“We’re going to look at him as a corner outfielder at this point in time and give him the opportunity to get his feet on the ground, then get some work done with [first-base coach] David McKay and then transition over to [third-base coach] Tony Perezchica, maybe get some ground balls at first and third base.”

Swihart has even been in consideration for time in center field, leaving him plenty of opportunities to work his way into the starting lineup this season.

“Anything I’m asked to do, I know I can do it,” Swihart said. “I grew up playing multiple positions. I played outfield probably more than the infield. So whatever’s asked of me, I know I’m capable of doing it.”

On Monday, Swihart was listed as available off the bench against the Pirates, but it’s not necessarily because he’s being blocked out by other starters. Lovullo is impressed by his new utility man’s switch-hitting ability and speed, and he’s eager to see how those traits will play out.

Swihart entered in the seventh inning as a pinch-hitter and played a key role in the D-backs' rally in their 12-4 win over the Pirates. He rolled an infield single between the catcher and the pitcher for an RBI that cut Arizona's deficit to two.

“There’s a certain criteria that I believe all guys off the bench have to fit,” Lovullo said, “and he’s going to walk into some situations and help us win some games, because he fits that criteria perfectly.”

Injury notes

• TJ McFarland (left shoulder inflammation) made another rehab appearance on Sunday, striking out all three batters he faced in his inning of work.

“He threw the ball very, very well,” Lovullo said. “I think his velocity ticked up a little bit, but it was the pitch selection and the consistency of his pitches during his rehab outing that looked very encouraging.”

• Avila and Jake Lamb (both left quad strains) took batting practice on Monday and continued to progress “as tolerated,” per Lovullo.

• Christian Walker returned to the starting lineup on Monday after banging up his right hip in a collision with Willson Contreras in Chicago on Saturday. He batted fifth and hit a 2-run home run in the seventh inning.

Earth Day spirit

Adam Jones celebrated Earth Day on Monday by taking the field with a Players for the Planet arm sleeve.

The organization was co-founded by his former Orioles teammate and longtime friend Chris Dickerson, and it seeks to unite athletes “to bring lasting and measurable transformation on the Earth,” per its website. The sleeve features a recycling logo with a baseball in the middle.