Red Sox notes: Christian Vazquez keeping it simple as he ends power drought

It had been 45 days since Christian Vazquez trotted around the bases when he homered in Sunday’s win over the Rays, and the Red Sox catcher looked relieved as he crossed home plate.

Before last season, that kind of power drought might have not been surprising. But after Vazquez belted a career-high 23 homers in 2019 and then started this season with four in his first five games, it was a little troubling to see him go that cold before Sunday’s blast.

“I was struggling a little bit, I went down a little bit,” Vazquez said. “But I was trying to be simple. I don’t want to try to hit homers because my swing gets too big. I was trying to get base hits and line drives. Homers come. I take it. I was trying to be simple at home plate.”

The problem, Vazquez admitted, might have been trying too hard to replicate that success, which forced him into some bad habits at the plate. Though he pressed a little more in a concerted attempt to get to 20 homers last season, which he still got, he knows that’s not the right approach.

“Last year, I was trying to get to 20,” Vazquez said. “I was trying to get it, and it was the same situation this year. It was like a month without a homer but when you try, like I said, you don’t get it. You need to go to home plate and have a plan and try to hit the ball hard no matter where we’re going. The homers come.”

With less than two weeks left in the season, Vazquez seems to be figuring some things out. Going into Tuesday night’s game against the Marlins, he was hitting .324 with a .425 on-base percentage over nine games in September, which has improved his season average from .252 to .271. Red Sox manager Ron Roenicke thinks that’s the foundation his catcher should be working from before the power comes.

“I know he went a stretch without hitting a home run, but I’m not too concerned about that,” Roenicke said. “I think always in a season when you have six months, you’re going to go through stretches, it’s just this year, you look at things differently. I still think he’s a really good hitter. He does have power. But I think he’s a good hitter first. I think he can hit for average, I think he can drive in runs.

“When you try to hit for power, things don’t usually go as well. We’ve got to make sure he feels the same way. I know everybody wants to hit for power, but sometimes you’ve got to be a good hitter first, and that’s what he should be.”

Pivetta stretched out

It’s still possible we see new Red Sox pitcher Nick Pivetta start a game before the season ends.

Pivetta, acquired by the Red Sox on Aug. 21 in a trade with the Phillies, has been stretched out at the alternate training site in Pawtucket, and seems ready to make his Boston debut soon if called upon.

“We’ve talked about him a lot, so we’re still making decisions on that,” Roenicke said. “We still have a plan in place, but we want to make sure that we’re still doing the right things and that could change. …

“I think he’s stretched out enough, so if everyone feels comfortable with it and where he’s at, then we’ve talked about the possibility of him doing that.”

Valdez stands out

Finding a bright spot in the Red Sox’ MLB-worst pitching staff is hard, but one name that’s stuck out to Vazquez is Phillips Valdez, who’s having a breakout first season with the Red Sox. He’s been the best bullpen arm by a mile, with a 2.73 ERA and 26 strikeouts across 26⅓ innings going into Tuesday night.

“I like Valdez,” Vazquez said. “He pitched very good this year. He’s tough. He’s got two pitches only. He throws the fastball and changeup. But he can make some outs with those two pitches. I like him a lot.”

Odds and ends

Darwinzon Hernandez (left shoulder) threw a bullpen Tuesday that went “really well,” according to Roenicke, and could still return this year. Josh Taylor (shoulder tendinitis) was scheduled to throw Tuesday as the Red Sox decide whether it’s safe or not for him to return… Mike Kickham will start Wednesday night against the Marlins. …

To make room for Tuesday night’s starter, Tanner Houck, on the 40-man roster, the Red Sox placed rookie Kyle Hart on the 45-day injured list with a hip impingement, effectively ending his season. … To get Houck on the active roster, the Sox moved Andrew Triggs to the 10-day IL with right radial nerve irritation. … The Red Sox released catcher Jonathan Lucroy, putting their player pool at 59.

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