TAMPA, Fla. -- With Spring Training nearly half over, the backup catcher's spot is still wide open between Kevin Plawecki and Jonathan Lucroy
"The tough thing is that you're going to have to make a decision at the end, and that's going to be a hard thing, because I like both of them," said interim manager Ron Roenicke.
When camp started, the expectation was that it was Plawecki's job to lose.
But it became a full-fledged competition when Lucroy signed a Minor League deal with a camp invite on Feb. 20.
Though Plawecki is known for his defense, he has impressed Roenicke with his bat so far.
"Plawecki's at-bats right now are fantastic," Roenicke said. "It's simple swings, he's going oppo, he's pulling the ball. His at-bats are really great for this time of camp."
It was Lucroy's turn to play on Tuesday, and he went 0-for-2 in the Red Sox's 9-1 loss to the Yankees. Lucroy's challenge is to bounce back from three injury-plagued seasons and get over the bad habits that occurred when he was playing hurt.
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"He's still trying to figure out timing and all that, but it's a great competition," Roenicke said.
Roenicke saw Lucroy at his best when he managed in Milwaukee.
"It looks a little bit different than what I remember, but I may be wrong," Roenicke said. "[Bench coach] Jerry Narron and I talked about it yesterday and I told Jerry, 'Go back and look at films when we had him in Milwaukee and see if there's certain things he's doing with his hands and see if it's the same thing.'
"I talked to [hitting coach] Tim [Hyers] about it yesterday. We're going to kind of look and compare and see if you're still doing similar things mechanically. We want to make sure he's there."
What are the Red Sox prioritizing from their backup catcher?
"I think on every team it seems to be a little bit different. When I got to Milwaukee, Doug Melvin wanted a little bit of offense in that backup role," said Roenicke. "We had Sandy [Leon] the last two years, and he was a fantastic defensive catcher. But there's a point where you have to have enough offense to carry the great defense.
"So we made the change this year. So far we're seeing both really good offense and defense. I can't tell you what I prefer. It probably depends on how many games your starting catcher is going to go. If he's catching 130, that defense is probably more important. But if he's catching 100, you better have a little bit of offense in there, too."
Roenicke isn't sure yet what starter Christian Vázquez's workload will look like.
"I think he's going to play himself into that. That's what we did last year," Roenicke said. "We weren't sure how many games he was going to catch. We kind of thought, maybe if he played a three-game series, it was two out of three. Then he started hitting well. So all of a sudden he's out there more often. And physically we thought he could handle it. As long as he handles the physical part of it, how he plays will determine how many at-bats he's getting."
Pérez unfazed by short outing
Lefty Martín Pérez, who will start the season as Boston's No. 3 starter, lasted just two-thirds of an inning while throwing 34 pitches against the Yankees on Tuesday. Pérez gave up four hits and six runs (only one earned) while walking one and striking out none. He threw another 20 pitches or so in the bullpen to keep building arm strength.
"Bad luck," Pérez said. "They don't hit the ball real hard. Soft contact. I throw everything I got. It's part of the game. I'm OK with that. I'm healthy. I'm in shape."
Pérez proved that by topping out at 96 mph.
"I'm in good shape, man. After I throw 30-some pitches, throw 96, it means you did your job in the offseason and you can be ready for the season," said Pérez.
With lefty Chris Sale out indefinitely after undergoing an MRI on his elbow, Pérez becomes an even more important piece for Boston.
"The good thing is I thought Martín threw the ball really well," said Roenicke. "I guess the bad thing is he didn't get over and cover first base and then we didn't make the other play. I thought he threw the ball really well. They didn't square up a ball on him. It's a shame in Spring Training, we're trying to have a rule where you can get a guy out of there and get him back in there in the second inning. Hopefully that will come to pass sometime."
Devers goes deep
Third baseman Rafael Devers isn't exactly easing into Grapefruit League action. The slugger belted his second homer of the spring on Tuesday after going deep in his most recent start on Sunday.
Devers ripped the first pitch of the fourth inning over the wall in center against righty Clarke Schmidt.
The left-handed-hitting masher started Spring Training late due to the birth of his daughter, but he is quickly making up for lost time.
"He's a special guy," said Roenicke. "I know he asked if he was playing tomorrow. He's like, 'I want to play every day.' I'm like, 'You're not playing every day.'"
Bogaerts closer to debut
Shortstop Xander Bogaerts has yet to play in a game this spring after arriving to camp with a sore left ankle. But he could get in the lineup within the next couple of days.
"The phone call today with [trainer] Brad [Pearson], I was [pleasantly] surprised," said Roenicke. "He's pretty close to getting in a game. We'll probably start him DH-ing a little bit. But I guess he's made a lot of progress over the last couple of days."
Lin tweaks hammy
Utility infielder/outfielder Tzu-Wei Lin, who is fighting for one of the final roster spots, exited Tuesday's game after one inning due to discomfort in his left hamstring. Lin started the game in center field but didn't end up getting an at-bat. Roenicke didn't think it was a big deal.
"He's OK, but he came into the game, his left hamstring was a little tight," Roenicke said. "He thought he could do it. And then he came in from that first inning and he was like, 'No, it's getting worse.' So we got him out of there. Maybe a couple, a few days [and he'll be back in there]."
Lin is competing with Rule 5 Draft pick Jonathan Arauz and Marco Hernandez for a bench spot. Two out of those three players might make the team with the rosters expanded to 26 players this year.
"He's been good," Roenicke said of Lin. "Versatile, which is huge. And lately he's been swinging the bat better."
Look for star slugger J.D. Martinez to be in the lineup along with outfielders Jackie Bradley Jr. and Kevin Pillar when the Red Sox return home to face the Tigers at JetBlue Park on Wednesday. Lefty Jeffrey Springs will make the start. First pitch is scheduled for 1:05 p.m. ET, and fans can catch the action on Gameday Audio.
Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook.