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Possible catch with Swihart

Red Sox pick also eyeing Longhorns

By Nicole Auerbach
Globe Correspondent / June 8, 2011

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NEW YORK — The biggest obstacles the Red Sox will face as they try to sign catcher Blake Swihart, whom they drafted in the first round Monday (26th overall), are burnt orange and white.

Swihart is committed to play for the University of Texas this fall, and on a conference call yesterday, he called Texas his “dream school.’’ He said he’d have an open mind about negotiations with the Sox, but playing for Texas was his current “Plan A.’’

Swihart was the first catcher drafted this year and the first taken by the Sox in the draft’s opening round since John Marzano in 1984.

Swihart wasn’t even originally a catcher.

All it took was a high school catching coach’s suggestion — that turning Swihart from an any-position player into a catcher could make him more attractive to college and pro teams. Throw in the fact that he’s a switch hitter with some power, and he became a can’t-miss prospect.

“A switch hitting catcher sounded pretty good,’’ said Swihart, who went to Cleveland High School in Rio Rancho, N.M. “It’s working out so far.’’

Swihart has until Aug. 15 to choose whether to sign with the Sox or honor his commitment to Texas. He said he expects to make the decision close to the deadline because he’s “so dedicated’’ to the Longhorns.

Though Swihart said some organizations were contemplating moving him to a corner outfield position, or third base, his development behind the plate over the past two years encouraged the Sox to draft him as a catcher.

The Sox have a history with switch hitting catchers, including both on their current roster: Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Jason Varitek.

“I expected the Red Sox to be one of the picks for me,’’ Swihart said. “I kind of saw it coming, but then I wasn’t sure at the same time because of my commitment to Texas.’’

Swihart said he hopes to visit the Longhorn baseball team at the College World Series in Omaha, if it beats Arizona State in a Super Regional matchup this weekend.

Swihart may not be the most intriguing Sox draft pick. That title could go to outfielder Williams Jerez, a second-round pick, 81st overall.

He moved to New York City from the Dominican Republic two years ago, and there have been questions about his age and background. The New York Daily News reported that scouts said they suspected he is older than 19, the age he says he is, despite seeing a birth certificate and passport provided by Jerez’s father.

Jerez is a 6-foot-4-inch, 190-pound lefthanded hitter, and — interestingly enough — he’s already played on a version of the Yankees. This spring, he played for Hank’s Yanks, a team sponsored by Yankees co-chairman Hank Steinbrenner in Florida. However, Jerez has said he’s always been a big Red Sox fan because he’s looked up to fellow Dominicans such as David Ortiz and Pedro Martinez.

In the third round, the Sox drafted catcher Jordan Weems from Columbus (Ga.) High School.

He was followed by righthander Noe Ramirez from Cal-State Fullerton in the fourth round, and shortstop Markus “Mookie’’ Betts from John Overton (Tenn.) High School in the fifth.

The first 30 rounds of the draft were completed yesterday; the remaining 20 will take place today.

The Sox selected Stonehill College righthander Brenden Shepard in the 28th round. The reliever from Boxford had a 3.63 ERA this season.

The Rangers selected Dartmouth junior righthander Kyle Hendricks in the eighth round, with the 264th pick . . . The Diamondbacks picked Holy Cross junior lefthander John Pedrotty of Portsmouth, R.I., in the 13th round, with the 394th pick . . . The Rays drafted Boston College senior Garret Smith in the 20th round, 630th overall, and will start the infielder/catcher/pitcher at shortstop . . . The Giants tapped University of Maine junior righthander Keith Bilodeau of Bourne in the 24th round. Black Bears junior outfielder Taylor Lewis, from Montville, Conn., was taken by the Pirates in the 10th round.

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