After initially being delayed by visa issues, catcher Jorge Alfaro reported to Red Sox camp in Fort Myers, Fla. on Sunday.
Alfaro, donning the No. 38 at the Fenway South complex, signed a minor-league contract with Boston last month. The deal came with an invite to major-league spring training as well as a $2 million salary if the 29-year-old backstop cracks the Sox’ big-league roster this season.
“He’s got to catch up now,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora told reporters (including MassLive.com’s Christopher Smith) on Sunday. “He’s a week behind and there’s a lot of work defensively that he needs. And [catching coach Jason Varitek] is on top of that.”
Prior to signing a minors pact with the Red Sox, Alfaro spent his offseason playing for the Tigres del Licey of the Dominican Winter League. The right-handed hitter appeared in just six regular season games for Licey but turned it up a notch in the postseason en route to being named MVP of the league’s championship series.
“He had a good winter,” said Cora. “He did a lot of good things for Licey offensively. “But defensively, there’s a few things that we recognize that he needs to start doing. We’ll see where we’re at.”
With the Padres last season, Alfaro batted .246/.285/.383 with 14 doubles, seven home runs, 40 RBIs, 25 runs scored, one stolen base, 11 walks, and 98 strikeouts over 274 plate appearances. He also averaged a velocity of 89.4 mph on the balls he put in play while ranking in the 97th percentile of all major-leaguers in max exit velocity (115.2 mph), per Baseball Savant.
Defensively, Alfaro logged 530 2/3 innings behind the plate in 2022. The 6-foot-3, 230-pounder threw out just five of 30 possible base stealers while allowing a league-leading seven passed balls. That being said, he also ranked in the 94th percentile when it came to average pop time to second base (1.89 seconds) and has well-regarded for his arm strength in the past.
Over the next several weeks, Alfaro will be competing for a spot on Boston’s Opening Day roster. As currently constructed, Reese McGuire and Connor Wong are the only two catchers on the club’s 40-man roster. Since McGuire hits from the left side of the plate, he seems like a lock to make the team. Wong and Alfaro, meanwhile, are both right-handed hitters, so there could be more of a competition between the two. It also helps that unlike Alfaro and McGuire, Wong still has one minor-league option remaining.
Of course, Alfaro is still at somewhat of a disadvantage since he will soon be temporarily leaving camp to play for his native Colombia in the upcoming World Baseball Classic. Once he returns from the tournament, he will have a limited amount of time to work with Varitek and other Red Sox coaches before Opening Day arrives next month.
“He’s going to the tournament, too,” Cora said of Alfaro this past Friday. “It’s kind of like a small window for him to work with Jason, which is very important. But he should be OK.”
If Alfaro fails to break camp with the Red Sox and presumably accepts his assignment to Triple-A Worcester, he will have the ability to opt out of his contract and return to free agency if he is not called up by June 1 or July 1 at the latest.
(Picture of Jose Alfaro: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)