ST. PETERSBURG -- It had been a long time since Blake Swihart last caught at the Major League level -- April 12, 2016, to be exact, when he squatted behind the dish for the Red Sox. Disregarding a Major League workload, Swihart hadn't caught in the Minors since Aug. 29.
In Friday's 13-6 win over the Rays, Swihart entered in the ninth inning as a pinch-runner and stayed in to catch six innings, working with five relievers. Welcome back, Mr. Swihart.
"With each inning that he did catch, you could see some added comfort," Boston manager John Farrell said. "He hasn't caught in a few weeks, and all of a sudden, OK, by the way, jump in the game in the ninth inning and here's Craig Kimbrel. Not an easy task to undertake."
After Kimbrel there was Addison Reed, Joe Kelly, Brandon Workman and Blaine Boyer. Swihart not only had to shake off the physical cobwebs, he also had to adjust to a number of pitch repertoires, some of which he had never handled in a game.
"[Swihart] hadn't caught Addison Reed at all, so the fact that he had to keep a number of pitches in front of him with some balls in the dirt, he did a very good job," Farrell said. "The game calling, to the receiving, to the blocking. Pivotal at that time of the game."
With Hanley Ramirez dealing with left biceps soreness along with ailing shoulders, Farrell is looking for options to fill the designated hitter spot. One possibility he discussed Friday was using Christian Vazquez at DH on days he isn't catching. Friday was just one game, but for Farrell, it was enough to at least think about sending Swihart behind the plate.
"That was a much needed contribution on Blake's part [Friday] night," Farrell said. "A lot of the debate about September baseball is too many people, too many opportunities to change, but you know what? Maybe this gives us an opportunity to be a little bit more flexible with the lineup."
Connor Mount is a reporter for MLB.com based in St. Petersburg. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.