FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Catcher Christian Vazquez, who is ranked the Red Sox's No. 15 prospect, has some raw power in case you were wondering. The moon shot he hit over the Green Monster beyond JetBlue Park on Thursday afternoon against Boston College might still be rolling around in the player development complex.
But the overall hitting approach is what Vazquez is most focused on.
"Big step forward last year," said manager John Farrell. "Improved average. I think more than anything, when you start to see the walks to strikeouts even out, I think that speaks to his confidence in the box. The ability to be comfortable or remain calm in some of those two-strike situations. He's an exciting looking player, and he took a solid step forward offensively last year."
In 403 plate appearances last year, all but four of them for Double-A Portland, Vazquez had a .376 on-base percentage. That was nearly a 100-point jump from 2012.
"I feel great," Vazquez said. "I was working in the offseason, working with my counts, and working to the middle of the field. I'm getting better every day."
Already known for his cannon arm and his lightning-quick release, Vazquez could round out his development this year and be ready to be a significant part of Boston's catching solution next season.
"I hope so, but I'm going to continue working hard," said Vazquez. "They'll tell me when they call me up. Until then, I'm just going to continue to work hard and give my 100 percent."
Gomes could see time in leadoff spot this season
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Jonny Gomes in the leadoff spot for Friday's Grapefruit League game against the Twins might have looked like one of those quirky lineup moves that you see quite often in Spring Training.
But in truth, manager John Farrell is open to putting the right-handed-hitting slugger in the leadoff hole at times this season.
In his career, Gomes has had the fewest plate appearances (14) at leadoff than any other spot in the batting order.
What does Farrell like about what he can offer at that spot, at least on a part-time basis?
"He puts up quality at-bats, regardless lefty or righty, and we saw that repeatedly last year," Farrell said. "So this is a look at maybe an alignment we see during the year, too."
The two men who will probably get the most opportunities to lead off for Farrell this season -- Daniel Nava and Shane Victorino -- were both unavailable on Friday. Nava is recovering from a neck injury and will get his first start on Saturday. Victorino is doing some maintenance work on his legs and will be held back at least a few more days.
The fact of the matter is that the Red Sox aren't going to have a leadoff hitter like Jacoby Ellsbury, who will likely be among the league leaders in stolen bases. But Farrell is confident he can get the productivity he needs out of that spot.
Ellsbury thanked Farrell after signing with Yanks
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- When free agents bolt for a new home -- like Jacoby Ellsbury did back in December -- you sometimes don't hear about the good-byes they have with their former organization.
Manager John Farrell noted Friday morning that Ellsbury called him shortly after signing his mega-deal with the Yankees, and it sounds like it was a good conversation.
"He called after the deal was agreed upon, and to his credit, he called to say thanks," Farrell said. "I got the sense he was a little surprised it happened so fast and the magnitude that it happened. And I wished him well. We're certainly going to miss him, but now he's on the other side. He handled it with a lot of class. He was very grateful for his time here and he gave thanks to the way things unfolded last year."
Farrell will see Ellsbury in person on March 18, when the Red Sox go to Tampa, Fla., to play the Yankees. The Red Sox open a four-game series in the Bronx on April 10, but the more noteworthy meeting will come April 22, when the Yankees make their first visit to Fenway Park.
Ellsbury won two World Series championships with the Red Sox, the first in 2007 when Farrell was the pitching coach.