Red Sox to mirror Wieters' recovery with Vazquez

25-year-old catches first game since Tommy John surgery

March 8th, 2016

SARASOTA, Fla. -- Five days shy of the one-year anniversary of when he felt that first alarming twinge in his right elbow, Christian Vazquez made his return to the Red Sox on Tuesday afternoon.

The comeback game from Tommy John surgery was short but definitely sweet, as Vazquez caught two innings and went 0-for-1 as the Red Sox beat the Orioles, 5-1.

"That was my goal -- to get back to the field and do my things, do my catching things," Vazquez said. "I'm happy. I'm excited. It's a long year to get back, but I'm here."

Yet Vazquez isn't all the way back. There will be a progression. For example, he will take the next two days off before returning for Friday's game in Dunedin, Fla., against the Blue Jays.

Matt Wieters, who started against the Red Sox on Tuesday, is one of the few other catchers who has also undergone Tommy John surgery. After having his surgery in June 2014, Wieters didn't start playing back-to-back games behind the plate until late in the 2015 season.

"Matt looks like his old self now," said Orioles manager Buck Showalter. "You've just got to be patient. It's going to come back. You're going to go through some spurts where you have some scar tissue and things. Everyone is different, though. There's not a blueprint. He's just got to take his time."

And that's exactly what the Red Sox are going to make Vazquez do, even if it's not what he wants to hear.

"I don't know if you've seen many [catchers] that have gone through it," said Red Sox manager John Farrell. "We kind of went back and paid attention to what Matt went through and know that they're going to be asked to play more regularly than a pitcher coming back from this. Every case is different, but that at least served a little bit as a template for what we presented and put in front of Christian."

Vazquez didn't get a chance to throw anyone out on Tuesday. Those chances will come in time.

"He looked very comfortable," said Farrell. "He handled a couple of balls in the dirt clean. You look at his throws down to second in between innings. They looked similar to what they were pre-surgery."

Though the Red Sox haven't said anything for sure, it seems probable that Vazquez will start the season in Triple-A Pawtucket either on a rehab assignment or with a straight option.

Blake Swihart and Ryan Hanigan give the club a capable catching duo, meaning the Red Sox don't need to rush Vazquez.

"That's not my decision. Where they put me, I'm going to play and do my 100 percent," Vazquez said.

As Showalter learned with Wieters, the key is patience.

"It will come, little by little," Showalter said. "Catchers have to be able to throw with reckless abandon. Today was the start for [Vazquez]."

"It's two innings, and a happy player coming off the field after what he's gone through," said Farrell.