FORT MYERS, Fla. — With news Friday that the Royals have lost their All-Star catcher Salvador Perez for what appears to be a significant amount of time with a UCL injury to his elbow, speculation will swirl more intensely around the Red Sox, who have openly said they want to trade one of their catchers.
It’s just one reason why Sandy Leon picked a good day to hit a home run in the Red Sox’ 4-3 loss to the Twins. It’s his second of the spring.
“I wasn’t trying to hit a homer, just been working at it, staying short, get a pitch to hit,” said Leon. “I just put a good swing on it. I was seeing the pitch good, swinging at strikes and that’s going to help a lot.”
Leon is of course aware that the Red Sox’ trade intentions.
“I know all three can catch and can play in the big leagues — whatever happens, we’re going to play, we’re a family, we are really tight, Christian (Vazquez), Blake (Swihart) and me,” said Leon. “Just have to keep working hard and let it happen. I’ve been in that situation a lot of times so it doesn’t bother me. I’m going to play hard, do my job and see what happens.”
The Red Sox traded for Leon from Washington at the end of the 2015 season after Vazquez underwent Tommy John surgery and missed the entire season.
Leon’s power has declined over the past three seasons, from a .476 slugging percentage in 2016, then .354 and .279 last year when he hit five home runs.
“Starting over,” said Leon. “Last year it wasn’t good, especially that part. I know I’m better than that and I can do the job in that part and help the team more than I did last year and just looking forwards to do that.”
Leon alluded to the possibility that he began to press at the plate once it became clearer he would not be a Silver Slugger candidate.
“Probably thinking too much, trying to be one guy that I can’t,” said Leon. “I’ve got to be me. I was me the two years before that and that wasn’t me. It was me catching but it wasn’t me hitting. I know I can do better than that.”
Manager Alex Cora said he believes all the catchers will have better offensive campaigns in 2019.
“Offensively they’re a lot better than last year, we know that,” said Cora. “I’m not saying they’re going to hit .330, .340 – hopefully – but they’re a lot better than last year, they’re going to improve.”
News and notes
• Bryce Brentz connected for his second home run of the spring, his solo shot in the seventh giving the Red Sox the 3-2 lead.
“He’s been working with (hitting coaches) Tim (Hyers) and Andy (Barkett), he’s buying into what they’re preaching, and you can see it in the games,” said Cora who was more impressed with Brentz’ fourth-inning double to right field.
• J.D. Martinez will make his spring training debut on Saturday’s game against the Orioles. Martinez will DH. Mookie Betts, Jackie Bradley Jr. and Benintendi will play the outfield, with Eduardo Nunez at third base, Xander Bogaerts at shortstop and Brock Holt at first base. Brian Johnson will start, with Colten Brewer and Travis Lakins scheduled for relief.
• On Sunday, Mitch Moreland will make his first spring training appearance. Darwinzon Hernandez gets the start against the Twins, with Erasmo Ramirez, Tyler Thornburg and Marcus Walden in after him. Eduardo Rodriguez will start Monday against the Mets, with Hector Velazquez likely starting against the Nationals on Tuesday.
• Reliever Ryan Brasier (pinky toe) threw from 90 feet and did just fine. Steve Pearce, who’s been sick, reported for light duty but still felt weak.
• With Bradley off to a particularly strong start — 6-for-8 with two homers and a double — this spring, Cora doesn’t see a different Bradley.
He sees the hitter who improved his first-half OPS of .642 to .827 in the second half.
“Obviously, it’s still spring training, he’s hitting the ball hard but it’s just a continuation of his process — he was very good in the second half,” said Cora of Bradley, who was the MVP of the ALCS against Houston. “Obviously he had some big swings in October. People think that in the ALCS he hit .500, and I think he only had three hits (3-for-15), a double with the bases loaded, a grand slam and a three-run homer, that was it. The fact that he’s consistent with his approach is going to make him that player. It’s good to see now but I knew, in the second half he looked so good and consistent, we were OK with that.”
• Cora has been impressed with prospect Bobby Dalbec’s control of the strike zone.
“It’s not like he’s swinging out of control,” said Cora, before pivoting to the other top hitting prospect in camp. “(Michael) Chavis, he has a very powerful swing. He’s under control but he doesn’t look under control. But Dalbec, he controls it and his swing is under control. I think that’s something that (Martinez) does a good job of it, staying off the edges of the strike zone, and Bobby so far has shown that as well.”
• The limited partners of the Red Sox are in town for their quarterly meeting.
Catcher Sandy Leon hits another homer same day KC loses a catcher Boston Herald.