GLENDALE, Ariz. — Seby Zavala wanted to join the Army when he got out of high school and push himself to his limits.
He even fancied the idea of becoming a Navy Seal.
“When I was young, my dad was in the Army, and I loved watching war movies,’’ Zavala said. “That’s what I wanted to do growing up. If my dad hadn’t told me to go to college I’d be in the Army, 100 percent. I sat down with him and said, ‘I appreciate everything you have done for me but this is the path I want to go.’ He was all about it but he said, ‘do college first and you can do whatever you want after that.’ ‘’
Zavala had played two years of baseball in high school in La Puente, Calif., but wasn’t drafted. He heeded the advice of his father, who is an FBI agent now, and attended San Diego State.
There, he turned into a prospect and was drafted by the Sox in the 12th round of the 2015 draft.
Father knows best.
“I said, ‘OK dad, I guess I will play baseball through college, and look where I’m at now,’’ he said.
That would be on the cusp of being a major league catcher, although Zavala’s quest to show what he can do against big-league competition in spring training is being thwarted by a left quad strain. Zavala came into camp about eight pounds lighter – working out and eating better in the offseason, he said – and got off to a nice start this spring going 2-for-3 with a double and two runs scored in the Sox’ split-squad game against the Athletics last Saturday. But he hasn’t played since and might be out a while.
“It could be a week,” manager Rick Renteria said.
Zavala and Zack Collins, the Sox’ first-round draft choice in 2016, are the Sox’ near future at catcher — both Welington Castillo and James McCann might not be here after this season — and have worked in tandem at AA Birmingham and AAA Charlotte, where they expect to open this season vying for callups in 2019.
“We expect the best from each other and try to make each other better,’’ Collins said. “At the same time, we’re competing for a job.
“We’ve gotten close and he is a good buddy of mine. No matter how much competition, who makes it or who makes more money, it doesn’t matter.’’
As a No. 1 pick, Collins would seem to have an edge, but some scouts also view Zavala, a good hitter with pop in his bat and improving catching skills, as a potential starter in the major leagues.
“There is always competition,’’ Zavala said. “But if I worry about Zack too much and he worries about me we will get outside ourselves and won’t perform our best.”
And if competition pushes each of them, that can’t hurt.
“I don’t want anything given to me,” Collins said. “I want to earn everything I get.’’
NOTES: Dylan Cease, whose first start is not yet listed on the schedule, continues to be brought along slowly in advance of a targeted career-high innings workload. Cease pitched a career-high 123 innings between Class AA Birmingham and AAA Charlotte last season. He is slated for live batting practice Saturday morning, manager Rick Renteria said.
*Daniel Palka ran at full speed on a treadmill, did some hitting and should be back soon, although Renteria said, “We don’t want to rush it or it to become something that starts to become a chronic situation.”
*The Sox farm system is ranked sixth in Baseball America’s latest rankings. Here is the publication’s top 10 Sox prospects: 1) OF Eloy Jimenez 2) RHP Michael Kopech 3) RHP Cease 4) 2B Nick Madrigal 5) OF Luis Robert 6) OF Micker Adolfo 7) RHO Dane Dunning 8) OF Blake Rutherford 9) OF Luis Gonzalez 10) OF Steele Walker.