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Cora envisons super-utility role for Swihart

Catcher learning 2nd to cover for injured Pedroia
MLB.com @IanMBrowne

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- There could be a new wrinkle added to Blake Swihart's versatility this spring. Manager Alex Cora mentioned Tuesday that the switch-hitter could see some time at second base, which is noteworthy when you consider Dustin Pedroia is expected to miss the first few weeks of the season following left knee surgery.

If Swihart can learn how to adequately play second base, it could open up more at-bats for him while Pedroia is out. Marco Hernandez, Brock Holt, Deven Marrero and Tzu-Wei Lin are other players who will be competing for playing time at second.

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- There could be a new wrinkle added to Blake Swihart's versatility this spring. Manager Alex Cora mentioned Tuesday that the switch-hitter could see some time at second base, which is noteworthy when you consider Dustin Pedroia is expected to miss the first few weeks of the season following left knee surgery.

If Swihart can learn how to adequately play second base, it could open up more at-bats for him while Pedroia is out. Marco Hernandez, Brock Holt, Deven Marrero and Tzu-Wei Lin are other players who will be competing for playing time at second.

Swihart has the best offensive upside of all the candidates who could fill in for Pedroia.

A catcher by trade, Swihart can also play the corner-infield spots and left field. Swihart is out of options, meaning there's a very strong chance he'll make the team.

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"I see Swihart in the mix of the Red Sox on the 25-man roster," said Cora. "This is a guy that, offensively, he's a plus and he'll bring versatility to our roster."

Asked specifically about second base, Cora said, "Oh yeah, second, third, I mean, anywhere. I haven't been with him on a field but everything I hear, especially when he's healthy, he's athletic enough that you can move him around, and obviously behind the plate, he can help. You don't see that often, guys that are versatile enough. And like [Austin] Barnes in L.A., there's a guy who can catch, and all of a sudden in the World Series he was playing second base because he's that good of an athlete."

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The key for Swihart is that he's finally healthy after suffering a severe dislocation of his left ankle in June 2016, which still plagued him this past season.

Pedroia's progress
The volume level at Red Sox camp will increase on Friday, when Pedroia arrives. Though there is no precise timetable for when he will return, Cora offered an encouraging report.

"He's a guy that we know he's going to push himself, but every report we have is that he's taking the right steps towards being healthy," Cora said. "When we see him in the lineup, that's when he's healthy. We've got to make sure Dustin is healthy. It's very important for us, when he's healthy, he's one of the best second basemen in the big leagues. We want him to be healthy and when he's healthy, we're going to put him in the lineup, and I know for a fact he's going to perform."

Cora coy on catching situation
Christian Vazquez (85 starts) and Sandy Leon (77 starts) split the catching position almost equally last year, but Cora didn't make any proclamation on Tuesday if one of them would emerge as the primary receiver.

"I anticipate that we're going to have a great defensive catcher, a general behind the plate that is going to execute the game plan," said Cora. "Both of them are capable. On a daily basis we'll see. And both are really, really good. I know they don't get enough credit offensively, but they can do a lot of things offensively that can also help our team. We're going to be well covered on a daily basis behind the plate."

Video: Alex Cora on competition at catcher position

E-Rod, Wright update
There is some question over who will start the season as the No. 5 starter because Eduardo Rodriguez had right knee surgery in the offseason, and Steven Wright underwent a cartilage restoration procedure on his left knee last June.

"He's on the right track," Cora said of Rodriguez. "He's playing catch, he feels good. That's something throughout the camp that we're going to find out more about him. One thing for sure, mentally, he's in the right frame of mind. Very exciting and looking forward to being healthy and [able to] contribute."

Video: Rodriguez on his knee, preparing for the season

And Wright?

"It looks like he's heading in the right direction. When we have more about him, we'll get back to you guys," Cora said. "I can't give you a timeline. I don't think that's right for the player. I saw him throwing the ball the other day, and he looked really, really good."

Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook.

Boston Red Sox, Sandy Leon, Dustin Pedroia, Eduardo Rodriguez, Blake Swihart, Christian Vazquez, Steven Wright