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Carolina notes: Swihart plays catch-up
Red Sox prospect enjoying smooth conversion to backstop
06/26/2013 6:00 AM ET
Converted catcher Blake Swihart was Boston's first-round pick in the 2011 Draft.
Converted catcher Blake Swihart was Boston's first-round pick in the 2011 Draft. (John Wacher)

Players often change positions or learn new ones during their time in the Minors. Salem's Blake Swihart was asked to make a difficult switch right out of the gate and has gotten off to a good start.

The Boston Red Sox selected Swihart in the first round of the 2011 Draft and asked him to become a catcher, even though he'd barely played the position in high school. The conversion has gone smoothly so far as Swihart earned a Carolina League All-Star invitation this season.

Ranked by as Boston's No. 8 prospect, Swihart caught only two games as a high school senior and only a few more the previous year, but he's settled into the job in the Minors.

"I've enjoyed it a lot," Swihart said. "I will play wherever I can to get to the next level. If that's the best fit for me to get to the top, then I'll do it."

Swihart was going to play third base and outfield at Texas but took a $2.5 million signing bonus from Boston and began the change to backstop. Last year, he hit .262 with Class A Greenville of the South Atlantic League and threw out just over 31 percent of potential base-stealers.

His numbers have improved this season -- on offense and defense. Swihart has a .285 average while nailing 40.6 percent of would-be base-stealers (24 out of 59). In fact, other teams seem to have noticed Swihart's improvement, attempting fewer steals against the Red Sox than any other team in the league.

"I think I'm [improving] defensively," Swihart said. "I'm a lot more confident when people are stealing on me. Getting footwork down and the accuracy for throwing to second took some time. There's so much that goes into it."

Boston brass also has seen Swihart's progression. Ben Crockett, the organization's director of player development, talked with last fall about how pleased they were with Swihart's work during 2012.

"For him to go out and do it for a full season, control the running game, learn how to run a game and a pitching staff, he certainly has the athleticism to do it behind the plate," Crockett said. "The progress has come fast enough for him where I think it'll be right in line."

Swihart said he also feels more relaxed this season with Salem. The 21-year-old New Mexico native noted that he put a lot of pressure on himself last year, his first full season in the Minors, feeling he needed to do something extraordinary each game to prove himself.

Now, he's settled down and focused on working hard at every aspect of his game, including being a sound defensive catcher. Swihart knows he's probably a long way from the finish line -- but that's fine with him.

"I still need work on everything," he said. "You never stop working. You never stop learning."

In brief

The winner: Lynchburg's Robby Hefflinger had a big night at last week's California-Carolina League All-Star Game in San Jose. He won the Home Run Derby, then took home MVP honors after going 3-for-5 with two doubles while batting clean-up in the Carolina League's 12-2 win.

Lucky seven: Wilmington scored seven runs in the first inning against Lynchburg on Monday night en route to a 15-8 win. The Blue Rocks, who got seven runs on seven hits and sent 11 batters to the plate in that opening frame, finished with 19 hits in the victory.

Zeroes: Winston-Salem right-hander Bryan Blough won his fourth straight game Saturday, throwing eight innings in a 5-0 victory over Lynchburg. Blough gave up three hits a walk with five strikeouts. He's allowed just five runs over 28 innings during his winning streak.

Jeff Seidel is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs. Comments
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