Homegrown backstops; Swihart could be team's catcher of the future.


FORT MYERS, Fla. -- It has been a long, long, long time since the entire Red Sox catching corps consisted of receivers who came up through the farm system.

For one thing, the Sox haven't developed many catchers in recent years, for some reason. The list is pretty puny, punctuated by names like Kelly Shoppach, Dusty Brown and Ryan Lavarnway. Not that it really matters, since Boston has won three World Series in 11 years with imported catchers.

Christian Vazquez took over as the Sox' No. 1 catcher late last season, and Blake Swihart is maybe a year away. In not long, Boston could wind up with entirely homegrown catching corps for the first time since 1987 when it had five farm-system catchers on the roster at various times -- Rich Gedman, Danny Sheaffer, John Marzano, Marc Sullivan and, for novelty's sake, Mike Greenwell as a late-game fill-in.

There does not seem to be much sense in having both Vazquez and Swihart on the big-league roster permanently, though, at least as catchers. Vazquez is 24, and Swihart turns 23 on April 3.

Ryan Hanigan will team with Vazquez this season if all goes according to plan, but as encouraging as Vazquez's 2014 audition was, he still has not proven he can hit major league pitching consistently, and he may prove to be the odd man out in the longer run since the Red Sox are loathe to deal a talent like Swihart.

The son of a former college basketball player at Southern Illinois who was later a nuclear physicist at Los Alamos Laboratories, Swihart has an interesting background. His dad is from Kansas, his mother from Wyoming. The family moved from Texas to New Mexico when Swihart was in the fifth grade as part of his dad's job change.

"I figure I belong to both states, half and half,'' Swihart said, which would make him something like a New Texican.

He was a high school All-Star at Cleveland High in Rio Rancho, New Mexico, a suburb of Albuquerque. The Red Sox picked him 26th overall in the 2011 draft, using the compensation choice awarded when they lost Adrian Beltre to free agency. Swihart was the highest New Mexico player drafted since the Expos took Shane Andrews 11th overall in 1990.

For decades, New Mexico was a baseball backwater, something along the lines of Delaware or North Dakota. The Red Sox did not have a player who grew up in New Mexico play for them for the first 97...

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