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Tek's tutelage paying off for Vazquez

Red Sox's everyday backstop soaking up wealth of knowledge from former captain

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Christian Vazquez sometimes feels like he has an encyclopedia at his disposal each morning as he goes through catching drills at Spring Training.

"Great, great teacher," Vazquez said of former Red Sox catcher and captain Jason Varitek. "I call him the Google of baseball. It's so great to have somebody like him. It's a pleasure."

While Vazquez has all the tools necessary to be a fine catcher in the Major Leagues, Varitek has the experience.

How much has Varitek helped Vazquez during their daily drills?

"A lot," said Vazquez, who will be Boston's Opening Day catcher this season. "Just the little things."

What is an example?

Video: Catcher Christian Vazquez ready to lead in 2015

"Right now, we're working on receiving and getting the ball to travel more and just let it breathe. That's helped me," Vazquez said.

In fact, Vazquez has always immersed himself in the catchers who came before him. He is wearing No. 7 this season in tribute to his idol Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez.

Every winter, Vazquez works out with all the Molina brothers in Puerto Rico, and Red Sox right-hander Joe Kelly can see how it has paid off.

"He's Yadi," said Kelly, a former Cardinal. "That's his nickname. I call him that. He works with them every offseason and works with Jose, he works with Bengie, he works with all of them. His behind the plate skills are awesome. He's definitely a mini Yadi."

What reminds Kelly of Yadier Molina?

"How they catch, how they set up," said Kelly. "I wouldn't say they think the same, but he's getting there as far as reading hitters and stuff. He definitely has some of the tendencies and he's just the right amount of cockiness and confidence behind the plate that's perfect for a catcher.

"He prides himself on defense and he almost tempts runners to go. He likes to back pick like Yadi, get one knee, call a fastball inside, miss inside and back pick. It's stuff that Yadi does all the time."

The key thing Vazquez can learn from Varitek is how to develop the relationship that is so essential between catcher and pitcher. After working with mostly a young staff in the second half of last season, Vazquez is breaking in three veteran starting pitchers in Rick Porcello, Justin Masterson and Wade Miley.

"Varitek tells me I need to talk to each pitcher about what he likes, what he doesn't like. It's very important to get that trust," Vazquez said. "I'm like a manager now. I need to be in charge, calling games."

In talking to Vazquez, you never hear him talk about individual aspects of the game, such as hitting, or even the cannon arm he possesses. Instead, you hear him prioritize the same type of things that the catcher who once wore No. 33 in Boston did.

"I'm ready to help this team to win and help my teammates," Vazquez said. "We have a great group of pitchers here and we're trying to win this year and get to the playoffs. I'm here to win and helping the team. I'm excited to be here."

Ian Browne is a reporter for Read his blog, Brownie Points, and follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne.
Read More: Boston Red Sox, Christian Vazquez