When Kevin Plawecki signed with the Red Sox back in January, he may have thought he had the backup catcher spot in the bag seeing how his new club had recently traded away Sandy Leon and Christian Vazquez was the only other backstop on Boston’s 40-man roster.
Things remained that way headed into spring training at Fort Myers, but the Sox’ catching outlook changed when former All-Star backstop Jonathan Lucroy inked a minor-league deal with Boston on February 19.
Given his track record, self-proclaimed improved health, and history with new Red Sox manager Ron Roenicke, Lucroy appeared to have had the upper hand over Plawecki if Boston was only going to carry two catchers going into the 2020 season.
Of course, that was when the 2020 season was supposed to begin in late March. The ongoing, worldwide COVID-19 pandemic has since pushed Opening Day for a truncated, 60-game season to July 24 for the Sox, and with clubs being allowed to carry 30 players for the first two weeks of the season, both Plawecki and Lucroy are likely locks to make the team.
Prior to the pandemic-induced layoff, the pair of veteran backstops were swinging the bat well during Grapefruit League play. Even after a nearly-four-month break, that much has remained true thus far at Summer Camp in Boston.
More specifically, Plawecki went 3-for-3 at the plate in the Sox’ intrasquad contest at Fenway Park on Thursday. He seemed to have been pleased with how things have gone so far at camp when speaking to reporters via Zoom once his day had ended.
“It kind of clicked for me,” Plawecki said in regards to his approach at the plate after a few rough outings to start things out. In terms of where his offense is at right now, the 29-year-old said he “feels good.”
One obstacle that has emerged for Plawecki as a result of the layoff was that he essentially had to learn an entirely new pitching staff twice, as what he had picked up during spring training basically became more obsolete over time prior to the start of Summer Camp earlier this month. Still, the Indiana native was more than ready to “embrace” that challenge.
On the notion that the Red Sox will carry three catchers to at least begin the season, Plawecki put team results ahead of individual performance, saying, “Whoever is back there, obviously the main goal is to win that day.”
And even if he is not playing consistently, the former first-round pick of the Mets says he’s planning to “stay ready every day,” and whenever he is in the starting lineup, “go out there and do my best.”
With 60 games to play this season, one in which Plawecki likened to a “college baseball sprint to the finish,” it will be interesting to see how the Red Sox divide up playing time between the three catchers that will presumably make their Opening Day roster.
In 296 games since making his major-league debut with the Mets in 2015, Plawecki has played 257 games at catcher and just four at first base. Out of those combined 261 games playing a defensive position, the Purdue University product has seen more than 98% of his playing time come as a catcher.
Lucroy, meanwhile, has played 1,068 games as a backstop and 44 as a first baseman in 11 big-league seasons. In other words, 96% of his playing time at a defensive position has come at catcher, and 4% has come at first base, if that makes any sense.
Vazquez will most likely see the majority of his playing time come behind the plate as he will anchor the Sox’ pitching staff, but he has also seen time at first, second, and third base, albeit very sparingly.
It’s also worth mentioning that any one of Vazquez, Lucroy, or Plawecki could see time at designated hitter if, say, J.D. Martinez needs a day off or is playing in the outfield.