Down to their final two outs while facing the possibility of extra innings, Red Sox catcher Christian Vazquez provided a late boost for the Cangrejeros de Santurce of the Puerto Rican Winter League on Wednesday night.
With one out in the top of the ninth inning of a scoreless game against the Indios de Mayaguez, Vazquez came to the plate having already gone hitless with a strikeout through his first three at-bats of the evening.
Matched up against Mayaguez reliever Braden Webb with the bases empty this time around, Vazquez greeted the right-hander by clubbing a go-ahead solo shot to deep left-center field to give his side their first lead of the night at 1-0.
Vazquez’s first home run of the winter — and first in Puerto Rico since 2016-2017 — lifted Santurce to a tightly-contested 1-0 victory over Mayaguez, allowing them to improve to 16-14 on the season.
Following Wednesday’s clutch performance, the right-handed hitting backstop is now batting .179/.207/.357 through his first eight games (29 plate appearances) with the Crabbers.
Vazquez originally revealed last week that he would be returning to his home island to play winter ball for the first time since before the 2017 major-league season began.
While catcher is obviously Vazquez’s primary position with the Red Sox, the 31-year-old has yet to see any time behind the plate for Santurce and has instead served as either the club’s first baseman (like he did on Wednesday) or designated hitter.
As The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier wrote over the weekend, Vazquez is back in Puerto Rico with the hope that the extra reps he is getting there will allow him “to hit the ground running this coming spring.”
Back in November, the Red Sox — after some internal debate — picked up Vazquez’s $7 million club option for 2022, meaning he can become a free agent next winter. Under normal circumstances, they may not have permitted him to play in Puerto Rico this off-season, but the ongoing lockout allowed Vazquez to act on his own volition since clubs cannot contact their players.
On another note, Red Sox pitching prospect struck out one while tossing a scoreless eighth inning for Mayaguez in this very same game on Wednesday. The 25-year-old righty was added to the Indios’ roster earlier this month and has posted a 1.80 ERA in four appearances (five innings pitched) with the team.
(Picture of Christian Vazquez: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)