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July 18, 2012 at 9:57 AM

Vazquez' arm, bat helps Salem in comeback win

FREDERICK, Md. -- Salem catcher Christian Vazquez (pictured) paced the Red Sox offense with three hits, including a game-tying eighth inning home run in Tuesday night’s 6-4 win over Frederick (BAL).

But Vazquez, a strong catch-and-throw backstop who was drafted out of the Puerto Rico Baseball Academy in the ninth round of the 2008 MLB Draft, used his defense to make an early mark on the game as Frederick threatened to run away with it.

Salem staring pitcher Miguel Celestino struggled with command in the opening frame, and with men on first and third with nobody out, Vazquez fired a low bullet right into shortstop Xander Bogaerts’ mitt to nail perspective base stealer Trent Mummey. Frederick would plate three in the inning, but Vazquez provided a valuable out to control the damage.

“Having a guy like Christian is huge, because he can get you out of those innings,” Salem pitching coach Kevin Walker said. “We saw last night with (Brandon) Workman. Bases loaded, he got a strikeout, then (Vazquez) picked a guy off third base. It changes the whole inning for a guy, and actually gets momentum back in our favor.”

Salem broadcaster Evan Lepler said Vazquez has gunned down 35 of 80 runners this season (43.8 percent), tops in the Carolina League.

In the top of the second, Vazquez used his hands to get the barrel of the bat on a high inside fastball, which he drove to left field for a single. Vazquez stung a line drive right at the shortstop in the fourth, then smacked a hard single up the middle in the sixth. But on a night when Salem was in need of offense, Vazquez came through again in the eighth with a laser over everything in left-center field to tie the game at four.

Salem took the lead on a bases-loaded walk from first baseman Travis Shaw later in the frame, and after third baseman Michael Almanzar added an insurance run on his seventh home run of the season in the ninth, Vazquez grounded out to short in his final at-bat.

Vazquez has been steadily improving since a tough month of May, when he hit .155 and saw his average dip to .211. Since the calendar turned to June, Vazquez has hit .352 to raise his average for the season to .271.

“I just kept trusting myself and played the game,” Vazquez said of his rebound. “Just have fun, enjoy the game, and keep trusting your routine.”

Salem manager Billy McMillon said nobody panicked during the slump, and eventually, things started falling into place for Vazquez.

“I think the idea is all of our guys are going to hit,” he said. “It’s just a matter of time, and hopefully he’ll continue this.”

In 2011, Vazquez made strides in his second full campaign with Low A Greenville, taking over as the full-time catcher and hitting .283/.358/.505 with 18 home runs and 84 RBI in 105 games.

Photo credit: Christian Vazquez by Kelly O'Connor

Jon Meoli is a Senior Columnist for SoxProspects.com. Follow him on Twitter @JonMeoli.