As starters struggle, catchers gaining more comfort

As starters struggle, catchers gaining more comfort

BOSTON -- At the tail end of a week that saw Clay Buchholz, Justin Masterson and Wade Miley struggle mightily on the mound, the Red Sox have shown fans a team of contrast in the season's early going.

On one end, the deep Boston lineup has produced 56 runs in the first nine games, which is good for second best in the Majors. On the other, the club's starting pitchers have posted a collective 6.16 ERA over that same span -- the second-worst mark in baseball.

The recent struggles of the Red Sox rotation have reignited talk of whether the group can hold up over a whole season. For all the chatter, however, those within the clubhouse see little reason why their starters should be defined by one woeful turn of the rotation.

"There's been a lot made of us lacking something," manager John Farrell said. "Our biggest thing is what we focus on internally. I feel good about the guys we have on our staff."

As the team allows a mostly revamped rotation to settle in as a unit, catchers Ryan Hanigan and Sandy Leon are likewise growing accustomed to calling games for their new pitching partners on the hill. The Red Sox traded for Hanigan last offseason, while Leon became a late-spring acquisition after starting catcher Christian Vazquez was found to need Tommy John surgery.

"Sandy came over to us with just a week remaining. It was a little bit of a crash course to get familiar with the guys on the staff," Farrell said. "They've demonstrated a good feel for the game situation, the speed of the bat or reading swings. Despite the loss of Christian, we are comfortable with the two guys that are running the game behind the plate."

Hanigan said his comfort level has grown since Spring Training. Leon, though he has been with the team for less than a month, expressed similar confidence.

"You got to do your homework," Hanigan said. "You got to know what the other guy's doing, what the other team's doing. I've caught these guys on a minimal basis, some of them. Every game I'm learning something new, getting more information, getting a chance to talk with these guys about what worked, what didn't for the next outing. I feel pretty good right now with the guys."

Considering the offense's fast start and considerable depth, Farrell noted the high potential for his club if it can continue receiving solid outings from its rotation. To date, the Red Sox are tied for the second-most quality starts in the American League with five.

"For us to get that consistent work from them, that certainly would set us up each and every night to go along with our offense for what should be a successful recipe," Farrell said.

Alec Shirkey is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.