Off to a slow start as he tries to bounce back from the worst season of his career, Derek Jeter has already ditched the “new swing” that made so many headlines throughout spring training.
Hitting coach Kevin Long, who worked with Jeter to revamp his approach at the plate, told Wallace Matthews of ESPNNewYork.com that the 37-year-old shortstop has gone back to “more of what he’s done for his whole career” after initially attempting to decrease his stride.
Long tried to downplay the significance of the switch by saying that Jeter “has had a very successful career and it has worked out well for him.”
However, if the hitting coach truly believed sticking with the old approach was better for Jeter right now, at age 37, he wouldn’t have worked to change things in the first place. Jeter has gone 7-for-34 (.206) with zero homers and five strikeouts through nine games to produce a .535 OPS that is nearly 200 points lower than last year’s career-worst mark, but 34 at-bats are hardly enough to draw any sort of meaningful conclusions no matter how high profile the player. Last year he got off to a great start, hitting .330 in April, only to hit .260 after May 1.
The Red Sox signed catcher Christian Vazquez to a three-year, $13.55 million extension, per a team announcement on Saturday. The agreement will keep Vazquez under contract through the 2021 season and covers two years of arbitration eligibility and the catcher’s first year of free agency. It comes with a $7 million club option (and $250,000 buyout) for 2022 that could get bumped up to $8 million if he reaches 502 plate appearances in both 2020 and 2021. Vazquez has also volunteered to make an annual donation to the Red Sox Foundation as part of his new arrangement with the club.
The 27-year-old backstop is entering his fourth year with the Red Sox in 2018. He’s been a steady defender behind the dish over the last three years and was ranked fifth-best in defense among all American League catchers at the end of the 2017 season. He also enjoyed a breakout performance at the plate, slashing a career-best .290/.330/.404 with five home runs and a .735 OPS in 345 plate appearances.
Come Opening Day, Vazquez is expected to be the Red Sox’ primary option behind the plate, with veteran Sandy Leon and Blake Swihart poised to start in backup roles. Swihart is out of options, but has been groomed for a utility role this spring and could take a few reps in the left field and the infield corners if need be, as it doesn’t appear the club is prepared to trade him just yet.