PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- For most, it was an inconsequential late-inning Spring Training game move, one fairly typical for this time of year. For Blake Swihart, however, it was much more than that.
The switch-hitting catcher, who is ranked No. 9 on both the Red Sox Top 20 Prospects list, as well as the Top 10 catching prospects list, got his first taste of big league Grapefruit League action on Sunday afternoon, when he entered the game as a defensive replacement, taking over behind the plate for Ryan Lavarnway, in the eighth inning. He doubled in two runs in the ninth.
"I was very excited," Swihart said. "This is my first time I've been able to do it. I didn't know if I was going to get to play or not, but being able to get in was a lot of fun."
After some early jitters -- Swihart admitted that his first throw down to second base after pitcher Chris Martin's warmup tosses wasn't his finest effort -- he settled down and was able to truly soak up the experience. He enjoyed it even more when right-hander Dane De La Rosa came in with a fastball with two outs in the ninth. Batting left-handed, Swihart lined it to right to bring in a pair of runs. He would eventually come around to score in the 9-2 rout of the Rays.
"I fell behind the first couple pitches," Swihart said. "[It was a] 3-2 count, I knew he was going to come in with a fastball because I was behind before -- and I just wanted to get my hands up there and get something on the ball. It was fun to be out there."
The Red Sox took Swihart with the 26th pick in the 2011 First-Year Player Draft, and it took an over-slot deal to sign him away from the University of Texas. The switch-hitter spent his first full season in 2012 in the Class A South Atlantic League and played in 92 games, starting slowly, but finishing well, hitting .320 in August. He should make the move up to Class A Advanced Salem in 2013. He can feel a real difference between last year, his first Spring Training, and this one -- both in the clubhouse and behind the plate.
"I'm a lot more comfortable," Swihart said. "I know the team, I know everyone around me, it's easy to meet the new guys. It's not uncomfortable trying to say, 'Hi, I'm Blake.'
"I'm a lot more comfortable [defensively]. Not even just catching guys I've already caught, but people that I'm newly catching -- just what I've learned, techniques I've learned, it just makes it a lot easier. Camp's been going by pretty quickly. We break for the season in 15 days or something like that? I mean it's just going by pretty quick, and we're all having a little fun."