Sandy Leon discusses calling games, trust he has with pitchers


The Boston Red Sox' starting pitching was supposed to be a major strength of theirs this season. Instead, it has proven to be a weak spot to begin the year.

Through the first 15 games, the well-regarded rotation has struggled badly. They have a combined 1-9 record this year, and the lone winner, Eduardo Rodriguez, didn't get his first victory until Friday night against Baltimore. Even worse, every starter entered Sunday's game against the Orioles with an ERA of at least 6.00.

Part of the problem for the unit is that the Red Sox don't have Sandy Leon with the team. Leon, one of the best defensive catchers in the MLB, didn't make the Red Sox' roster to start the season. Without Leon, who had a catcher's ERA of 3.28, good for seventh among catchers who caught at least 1,000 innings last year, the staff has looked lost. And it's easy to see why.

Leon has a unique ability to successfully call games. He described his skillset recently in an interview and explained how thorough he is when selecting what pitches to call.

“You might go through a lot of stuff,” Leon told WEEI's Nick Friar. “Like, depending on how you pitch the guy the at-bat before. What kind of swing is he taking with a slider, with a fastball. I’ve got reports, that helps, but I go more with my mind and the guys on the mound.”

And Leon's ability to do this led the Red Sox pitchers to trust him almost exclusively. They rarely shook off signs from Leon because they knew he would call the game right.

“That’s good because you have all the trust in the catcher, but it’s a lot of pressure, too,” Leon said. “You have to call the right pitch in the right situation, who’s the guy hitting in that moment. It’s tough. To call the game is not easy.”

While the pressure may have fallen more on Leon, he could handle it. And it did a lot to lessen pressure on the pitching staff which led them to be more comfortable and calm on the field. That element has been missing this year.

It's possible that Leon could eventually return to the Red Sox. He was sent down because he's not a great hitter, and he has continued to struggle with his swing in Pawtucket (.136 batting average so far). That said, if Christian Vazquez and Blake Swihart continue to struggle to connect with the pitching staff, Leon could be called up. 

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Celtics easily on your device.

Contact Us