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Swihart feels healthy, ready to prove himself

Catcher looks to impress Red Sox at Spring Training
MLB.com @IanMBrowne

BOSTON -- The bounce in Blake Swihart's step these days is real, not just a figure of speech.

The catcher -- yes, he said to keep calling him a catcher -- is at last healthy again, and he feels primed to play his way back onto the radar this season.

BOSTON -- The bounce in Blake Swihart's step these days is real, not just a figure of speech.

The catcher -- yes, he said to keep calling him a catcher -- is at last healthy again, and he feels primed to play his way back onto the radar this season.

Swihart was one of the most enthusiastic participants of the Red Sox's annual Winter Weekend, simply because he feels like himself again.

"Awesome," Swihart said of his offseason. "[I'm] finally feeling healthy, and I'm excited for Spring Training."

Out of Minor League options, Swihart looks forward to playing his way back onto the depth chart. Christian Vazquez and Sandy Leon, the two catchers who combined to start all 162 games last season, are also still in the fold. The Red Sox, however, are open to going with three backstops given Swihart's ability to play first base and the outfield.

Video: Red Sox could possibly carry three catchers

For now, the 25-year-old Swihart isn't worrying about his role.

"Just go in there, have fun and show them what I can do," Swihart said. "This is the first time I've felt healthy in the last year and a half. It's going to be fun for me. I know what I can do when I'm healthy, and I'm excited to show everyone else what I can do."

When Swihart ran into the side door of the left-field wall in foul territory at Fenway Park on June 4, 2016, and severely sprained his left ankle, it led to a downward spiral that he just recently started to climb out of.

With Triple-A Pawtucket last season, when Swihart was healthy enough to play, he looked nothing like the man regarded as Boston's catcher of the future not so long ago. In 53 games, he hit .190/.246/.292 with four homers and 23 RBIs.

"I couldn't sit on my back side very well hitting left-handed, so I was coming out of my swing, and you saw last year, I struggled," Swihart said.

Looking back on it now, Swihart acknowledges he rushed back.

"I did too much too early on it," Swihart said. "The minute they cleared me, I did anything I could do. I pride myself being an athletic guy, getting back to Spring Training and being that athletic guy again. I think I just overdid it."

This offseason, a breakthrough occurred when Swihart played winter ball in the Dominican Republic.

"Usually when I play in back-to-back days at catcher, I can feel something," said Swihart. "I went in there and caught the next day, and I was like, 'You know what? I actually feel good today. What's going on?' That was the first time I felt really healthy again. It was like, 'Finally, all right. You're back. Let's go.'"

For all the talk about Swihart playing a utility role, he is confident he can be something more once he demonstrates his return to health.

"I look at myself as a catcher," said Swihart. "I want to be a catcher. I love catching. Whatever happens, happens. But going into Spring Training, I want to catch."

He is preparing himself for everything.

"I've done what I needed to do just to be ready," Swihart said. "I've taken ground balls, fly balls. I've done a lot of catching drills. And to be able to move the way I've been moving back when I wasn't hurt -- the biggest thing from this offseason is being healthy and doing all the one-legged jumps again, everything I was able to do before I ran into the wall."

For Swihart, Feb. 14 -- the day pitchers and catchers have their first official workout -- can't come soon enough.

"Definitely. I have a lot to prove, and I have a lot to show people who I really am and to show everybody that I'm back," Swihart said. "I'm a better player than I've shown in the past, and I know what I can do. And everybody, all the coaches, even you guys know what I can do, because you've seen it. I just want to be able to prove myself -- that's it."

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

Boston Red Sox, Blake Swihart