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Red Sox catcher becomes 2B for a day

Cora shakes up lineup on Patriots' Day; Sox wear No. 42 for Jackie Robinson
@IanMBrowne
April 15, 2019

BOSTON -- The ball will find you. And Christian Vázquez, the catcher who turned into a second baseman for a day, had two words: Bring it. Due to a variety of injuries, illnesses and maintenance issues, the Red Sox thrust Vazquez into emergency duty and had him make his first

BOSTON -- The ball will find you.

And Christian Vázquez, the catcher who turned into a second baseman for a day, had two words: Bring it.

Due to a variety of injuries, illnesses and maintenance issues, the Red Sox thrust Vazquez into emergency duty and had him make his first start in the Majors at second base on Monday.

In the top of the first inning, Dwight Smith Jr. hit a grounder to second base. Vazquez thought about flipping it to his double-play partner and best friend on the team, shortstop Xander Bogaerts. Instead, he made a traditional throw. Bogaerts caught the feed and fired to first for the inning-ending 4-6-3 double play.

The crowd roared and Vazquez sprinted off the field with a glow on his face. It was the best moment for the Red Sox in an otherwise nondescript 8-1 loss to the Orioles.

“It was fun. Something different,” Vazquez said. “I didn't want to mess Bogey up [with a flip]. I want to hit him in the chest. I was trying to go under but not a good idea."

In the second, Vazquez had another play to make. Renato Núñez belted an RBI hit to left-center and tried to stretch it to a double. But center fielder Mookie Betts came up throwing. Vazquez corralled it and his catching instincts took over as he dove across the bag and tagged out Nunez.

“He was smooth,” said Bogaerts. “Obviously, behind the dish he’s pretty smooth. I didn’t think we would have a problem with him there.”

Monday’s lineup will surely go down as the most creative of the season for Red Sox manager Alex Cora in terms of defensive alignments.

The second baseman (Dustin Pedroia) was at designated hitter. The first baseman/DH (Steve Pearce) was in left field. And most surprisingly, Vazquez was at second. The man who was originally going to start in left field (Blake Swihart) wound up as the catcher. A guy who can play just about any position (Eduardo Núñez) was on the bench.

Abbott and Costello would have had some fun with this one.

So what exactly led to all of this? Here is the best effort to explain it.

Cora is trying to stay away from Nunez for an undisclosed reason. Maybe he is sick or has a nagging injury.

Vazquez had caught the past three, including day games on Saturday and Sunday. Pedroia is still on a formulated playing schedule in his first week back from missing almost all of last season due to problems with his left knee.

Left fielder Andrew Benintendi (right foot contusion) and center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. (flu) were unavailable unless there was an emergency.

Cora was thrilled that his riskiest move paid off, even though it came in a loss.

“Solid. He did a great job,” Cora said of Vazquez. “He was in-tune with the game, a lot of communication. For a kid who hasn’t played second base at the big league level, you could see he was in it -- moving in the shift, including going to third, and having communication with the pitcher, communication with Xander, communication with the dugout, with the first baseman. He was outstanding.”

Red Sox honor Jackie

The Red Sox celebrated Jackie Robinson Day by including their Jackie Robinson Scholars as part of Monday’s pregame ceremonies.

For the 16th consecutive year, all players from every team wore No. 42 in recognition of Robinson, whose number is retired at every Major League park.

Monday was the 72nd anniversary of Robinson playing his first MLB game at Ebbets Field for the Brooklyn Dodgers.

Remembering Boston Strong

Monday also marked the sixth anniversary of the tragic Boston Marathon bombings, and the Red Sox held a moment of silence prior to the game.

The Red Sox played a role in helping the city heal in that 2013 season with their “Boston Strong” mantra, and they wound up winning the World Series.

They wore uniforms on Monday that said “Boston” on the front of the jerseys instead of the traditional “Red Sox”. The Sox first wore those uniforms on April 20, 2013, in their first home game after the bombings.

Former Red Sox starter Jake Peavy, who pitched for the ’13 team, threw out Monday’s first pitch to former teammate Bogaerts.

Roster move

The Red Sox optioned right-hander Marcus Walden to Triple-A Pawtucket following Monday's loss to the Orioles. A corresponding move to fill his spot on the 25-man roster will be made on Tuesday.

Walden, 30, has made five relief appearances for Boston this season after being recalled from Pawtucket on April 6. The right-hander went 2-0 with a 3.38 ERA and limited opponents to a .167 batting average.

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