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Sea Dogs catchers keeping things loose
All-Stars Vazquez, Spring helping pitching prospects advance
07/10/2013 7:38 PM ET
Christian Vazquez signs autographs before Tuesday's Home Run Derby.
Christian Vazquez signs autographs before Tuesday's Home Run Derby. (Kevin Pataky/MiLB.com)

NEW BRITAIN, Conn. -- It takes a team of trainers to handle a stable of thoroughbreds, so it should come as no surprise that Portland Sea Dogs catchers Christian Vazquez and Matt Spring both made it to the Eastern League All-Star Game.

The duo's work behind the dish and in the clubhouse already has helped many of the Sea Dogs young arms make the jump to Triple-A and even the Majors.

"[Vazquez] and I have had the easiest job in the league," said Spring, who's hitting .255 with six homers and 26 RBIs in 28 games. "It's not necessarily what they do on the mound, it's what they do off the mound. They push each other, work hard as a group, and Christian and I are just out there making suggestions."

The Eastern Division roster includes three pitchers from Portland, but Drake Britton was called up to Pawtucket earlier in the week and Will Latimer got word before Wednesday's game that he'll be joining the left-hander.

That follows the promotions of Chris Martin, Charlie Haeger, Brock Huntzinger and Brandon Workman, who was called up to the big leagues on Tuesday.

Anthony Ranaudo, the starting pitcher for the Eastern Division, was the only remaining Sea Dog arm in New Britain. And he's scheduled to appear in the All-Star Futures Game on Sunday in New York.

"There is a big comfortability that we have there," Ranaudo said of his batterymates. "Christian's talents speak for themselves. He's a great catch-and-receive catcher. Spring brings things to the game that you can't really explain. He believes in all of your pitches, so it's cool to have a veteran catcher back there."

Both catchers are making their first All-Star appearances as professionals and their approach to the festivities is filled with that Little League charm and wonder that excites and energizes everyone around them.

"It's fun being in my first All-Star Game," said Vazquez, who has thrown out 32 of 68 would-be basestealers this season. "I'm excited to start."

"I'm pretty excited," Spring added. "It's the midsummer classic and for us it's just a fun time. And it's fun to be around the other guys that are here."

Fun, a term the two throw around loosely, is also part of their routines with the Sea Dogs as they do their best to keep the team -- and most importantly their pitchers -- relaxed and involved.

"It's fun to have [Spring as] my teammate," said Vazquez, the Red Sox's No. 15 prospect. "He's crazy, he talks too much, but he's a good guy and a perfect teammate.

Spring was quick to return the love.

"The fact that both of us are here is awesome," he said. "We try to keep the club loose. I'm glad to be here with him."

Keeping a pitcher loose and comfortable is a catcher's priority, and the Sea Dogs seem to have that quality in two perfect complements to a highly touted staff that continues to shuttle folks upwards.

"Kudos goes to [the pitchers]," Spring said. "We just get to sit back and have fun."

Those fun-loving attitudes soon may follow the pitchers to the next level.

"It's great to see the pitchers I caught be in Triple-A and the big leagues," Vazquez said. "I hoping I'm going soon."

Craig Forde is a contributor to MiLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.
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