With Blake Swihart, the Red Sox Created a Scapegoat for their Embarrassingly Bad Start

The Boston Red Sox announced on Tuesday that they had recalled catcher Sandy Leon from Triple-A Pawtucket and designated catcher Blake Swihart for assignment in a corresponding move.

The move was made in anticipation of the Boston’s quick two-game series in New York against the Yankees starting on Tuesday night. The Red Sox’ ace, Chris Sale, was on the mound for Tuesday night’s loss against counterpart James Paxton and the obvious occurred, Leon was behind the plate as the starting catcher. The team will be looking to right the ship after getting off to a lackluster 6-11 start to the 2019 campaign.

There are a myriad of problems plaguing the 2019 Red Sox through their first 17 games, but perhaps the most glaring issue concerns the paltry performance of their entire starting rotation. The Red Sox currently rank dead last in all of Major League Baseball in starter’s ERA, sporting a ghastly 7.18 ERA from that group. Granted, Boston’s offense has not been much better, collectively hitting a meager .236 at the start of the season.

However, the problems that are infecting the starting rotation are, without doubt, the most alarming issue surrounding the team at the moment. Chris Sale, who just recently signed a 5-year, $145 million extension, is currently sitting with an 0-4 record and an ERA of 8.50 through his first three starts. Rick Porcello, who is an efficient strike-thrower, as well as a pitch-to-contact pitcher, has already issued 12 walks through 11 innings pitched this season. Nathan Eovaldi, whose heroic World Series performance earned him a 4-year, $67 million contract with the Red Sox, currently possesses a ballooned ERA of 8.40 and has already given up six home runs through his first 15 innings pitched.

After horrific pitching performances and losing 11 of their first 17 games, the Red Sox have decided that something must change, and they determined that it must be swapping out Swihart for Leon behind the plate. Here is the problem: the team has now essentially cut a 26-year-old, switch-hitting former first-round draft pick because their pitching staff has failed to carry their weight through the first two weeks of the season. Is that really the solution to Boston’s problems? Is making Blake Swihart the scapegoat for the team’s awful start really the right approach?

Blake Swihart's DFA is more so a scapegoat for a ghastly start for the defending World Series champions than anything else, writes @ColouroftheIris.Click To Tweet

Many of the Red Sox’ pitchers raved about Sandy Leon’s prowess at calling a game behind the plate during the team’s run towards an eventual World Series victory last season. There is no denying that Red Sox pitchers feel more comfortable with Leon catching than they did with Blake Swihart. Leon will provide a boost defensively and from a comfortability standpoint, but he is a detriment offensively. He slashed just .177/.232/.279 in 2018, and he was only batting .120 with Triple-A Pawtucket so far this season before getting called back up to the major league club. In fairness, it is certainly not as if Blake Swihart was tearing the cover off the ball before being designated for assignment. Swihart was slashing .231/.310/.385 through his first 12 games this season. However, he has always been regarded as a talented hitter who, given the chance, could develop into a proficient switch hitter that can serve as a valuable asset to any lineup.

Leon being a veritable black hole at the bottom of the lineup did not hurt the Red Sox in 2018, mostly because the rest of their lineup scored runs at a historic pace. The story is much different so far in 2019, with the Red Sox’ offense hovering around the middle of the pack compared to the rest of the league. Several key players such as Dustin Pedroia, Jackie Bradley Jr., and even the reigning 2018 American League MVP, Mookie Betts, have yet to provide consistent offense for their ballclub.

Can the 2019 Boston Red Sox overcome their early struggles? Will the rest of their lineup start to score more runs and perform towards their maximum potential? Most importantly, will the re-insertion of Sandy Leon behind the plate correct the early derailment of the Red Sox’ pitching staff?

The answer is simple: it better. It better do so, because otherwise the Red Sox just lopped a young talent off of their roster for absolutely no reason. These next two games against the New York Yankees will be a major test for this team. The Red Sox will be sending Chris Sale and Nathan Eovaldi to the mound against New York. Should they pitch well and return to form then the Red Sox’ management will look like geniuses. Should they continue to flounder and fall even further back in the standings, however, then Dave Dombrowski and rest of the Red Sox’ brass will, quite rightfully, face a lot of difficult questions.

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