Lavarnway looks to take next step during off-season

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Lavarnway looks to take next step during off-season

BOSTON Before he left for his home in Colorado, Ryan Lavarnway met with Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington at the end of the season.

Ben just said that I was part of the plan, Lavarnway said. And that I needed to finish taking that last step and be a full-time big leaguer. And he said he didnt think that necessarily had to take placeby playing but by knowing.

So, Lavarnway wasnt too concerned when the Sox signed David Ross last month.

I have no comment. I dont know, Lavarnway said. "I haven't talked to anyone about it. You never know what's going to happen as far as the winter meetings. This season, the final roster is still so far away, that you don't know whats going to happen.

Ross is a great player. He brings a very high level of character to the clubhouse. They obviously think that he can help us or they wouldnt have signed him. So if he can help us, then I'm glad to have him."

The Sox now have three catchers on the projected 25-man roster, with Lavarnway, Ross, and Jarrod Saltalamacchia (and a potential fourth with the Monday addition of Mike Napoli, who will primarily play first base but could also be called upon to catch). The abundance of backstops has led to speculation of either a trade or the possibility of Lavarnway beginning the season with Triple-A Pawtucket. Lavarnway isnt worried about it, though.

"I have no control over it at all at this point, he said. So I don't think about it."

He hasnt talked to Cherington or new manager John Farrell about that speculation.

They havent told me anything that the media havent told me inyour articles, Lavarnway said. So I dont know anything more thanyou guys do at this point.

Lavarnway, 25, is one of the Sox most highly regarded young players. Between Boston and Triple-A Pawtucket, he caught a career-high 108 games in 2012, 28 (25 starts) with the Sox. He excelled with Pawtucket, batting .295 with eight home runs, 43 RBI, slugging .439, with a .376 on-base percentage in 83 games. He was the starting catcher on the International League All-Star team, also being named a post-season All-Star, and was chosen by IL managers as the leagues best defensive catcher.

Will a return to Triple-A help his development, or has he progressed beyond that?

Well, Im not a talent scout, he said. I feel prepared. But I trust Ben. Whatever he feels I need to do, Ill do.

I think theres a difference between playing well in Triple-A and being ready for the majors. And I feel Im ready to make the transition. But Ben is in charge and I respect his decisions."

With the Sox last season, he threw out three of 31 base-stealers, while making only two errors behind the plate. Lavarnway struggled offensively, though, at the major league level. He hit just .157 (24-for-153), with just 10 extra-base hits, two home runs, 12 RBI, a .211OBP, and .248 SLG.

"I wasn't good, Lavarnway acknowledged. I wasn't myself. I'm better than that and I know it and Ive got to show it.

Perhaps the decline in offense can be attributable to the increase in his workload. At 108, last season marked a dramatic increase in the number of games behind the plate. In 2011, between Boston and Pawtucket, he caught 70 games. In 2011, it was just 53.

Probably, Lavarnway said. The way that I hit its a balance between being aggressive and being patient. And if the balance is off, then its off. And it was off.

Going into last year the main goal was to catch 100 games. And I would do things differently this year going in. I lightened the load in my workouts on my lower body workouts, because of the load my legs were taking in the games. And I felt like the strength of my legs suffered then. So I want to continue to lift heavy legs even though catching a lot next year. Ive been talking to new pitching coach Juan Nieves about what A.J. Pierzynski does because he catches a lot of games and he lifts every single day. So I think Im going to have more of that approach going into this next year, and hopefully stay stronger.

His current off-season workouts reflect that.Hes working with a new trainer near his Denver-area home slamming sledgehammers, flipping giant tires, dragging weighted sleds. Hell soon begin a running regimen at Red Rocks Park, a scenic outdoor amphitheater in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, 6,450 feet above sea level.

I wont promise Ill be faster, Lavarnway said. But my legs will be stronger.

Quotes, notes and stars: Betts has first career five-hit night

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Quotes, notes and stars: Betts has first career five-hit night

BOSTON - Quotes, notes and stars from the Red Sox' 6-3 loss to the Kansas City Royals

QUOTES:

"We continually do a great job in creating opportunities and I'm confident that (the struggles with men in scoring position) will turn.'' - John Farrell

"When you start off with a five-run spot in the first, that's a tough deficit to overcome.'' - Steven Wright.

"That's how it goes sometimes. Sometimes, we score when we're not expecting to and then when we need to score, sometimes it doesn't happen.'' - Mookie Betts on the team going 4-for-15 with RISP.

 

NOTES:

* The loss was just the third in the last 13 series openers for the Red Sox.

* The game marked the first time in 20 home games in which the Sox never led.

* Boston was 4-for-15 with runners in scoring position.

* The first four hitters in the order were 13-for-19 (.684). The fifth-through-nine hitters, however, were just 2-for-21 (.095).

* Mookie Betts (five hits) leads the majors with 55 multi-hit games.

* Dustin Pedroia has reached base in each of his last eight plate appearances.

* David Ortiz's double was the 625th of his career, passing Hank Aaron to move into 10 place in MLB history.

* Ortiz leads the A.L. in doubles (41) and extra-base hits (72).

 

STARS:

1) Eric Hosmer

Hosmer cranked a three-run homer into the Monster Seats four batters into the game, and the Royals were off and running with a five-run inning.

2) Ian Kennedy

The Royals starter wasn't dominant, allowing nine hits in 5 1/3 innings, but he bailed himself out of a number of jams and limited the Sox to just two runs.

3) Mookie Betts

Betts had his first career five-hit night and knocked in two of the three Red Sox runs, though he also got himself picked off first base.

 

Knighton on future after DNP vs. Panthers: 'If I'm here, I'm here...If I'm not, I'm not'

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Knighton on future after DNP vs. Panthers: 'If I'm here, I'm here...If I'm not, I'm not'

When Terrance Knighton was signed by the Patriots as a free agent this offseason, many assumed he would factor into the rotation that the Patriots would use on the interior of their defensive line in 2016. After not seeing a single snap against the Panthers on Friday night, it seems as though Knighton's roster spot in New England is no sure thing. 

"Everybody wants to play. I didn't get a chance to," Knighton said after the game. "That's the decision they made . . . I have faith in my ability. I have faith in, you know, the coaching staff's decisions -- whatever the decision was. I'm not looking for an explanation or anything. [I'll] show up to work tomorrow. I still got a lot of ball left in me so it is what it is."

The Patriots opted to go with rookie third-round pick Vincent Valentine as the defensive tackle starter next to Malcom Brown in Carolina. Even so, because Alan Branch -- who was re-instated from a week-long team suspension on Thursday -- was not in uniform it would have made sense for Knighton to see playing time. 

He admitted it was disappointing that he didn't. 

"It's disappointing just because I've played a lot of ball in this league," Knighton said. "I've seen a lot of things. I'm not gonna make too much of it. It is what it is. Whatever happens happens. If I'm here, I'm here. If I'm not, I'm not. I'm just taking it a day at a time."

Knighton is vying for a role alongside fellow defensive tackles Markus Kuhn, Joe Vellano, Anthony Johnson and Woodrow Hamilton -- all of whom saw some action in Carolina. The former Jaguars, Broncos and Redskins defensive tackle saw playing time against the Bears last week, but he was in the game late, and when he was on the field, he had difficulty holding his ground at times. 

After the Panthers game, Patriots coach Bill Belichick was asked about Knighton's lack of playing time, and he alluded to the fact that Knighton is still trying to pick up some of the techniques he's being taught in New England, where defensive tackles are expected to two-gap effectively. 

"Some new techniques, some new things...different things than what he's used to doing," Belichick said. "We played the younger guys tonight. We didn't get as much of a look at him as some other players. He played a little more last week. I think there's good competition at that position. We'll just have to see how it all plays out."

First impressions: Royals' five-run first inning dooms Red Sox in 6-3 loss

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First impressions: Royals' five-run first inning dooms Red Sox in 6-3 loss

First impressions from the Red Sox' 6-3 loss to the Kansas City Royals:

 

Steven Wright recovered nicely after the first inning, but the damage was done.

Wright's last five innings featured just three hits allowed -- one in the infield. But the first inning did the Red Sox in -- two walks followed by a three-run homer, then a single and a two-run homer.

Whether this was a matter of rust for Wright -- who last pitched three weeks ago Friday night -- or an early inability to command his knuckleball is uncertain.

The fact is, Wright dug an early hole for his teammates, and he had the misfortune to do so against a team with the best bullpen in baseball.

To his credit, Wright kept the game somewhat within reach thereafter, but the five-run head start proved too much of a jump.

 

It's time to worry a little about Jackie Bradley.

Bradley was just 7-for-40 in the just-completed road trip, and things didn't get any better on the first night of the homestand.

In the first, he came up with two on and two out and struck out swinging to strand both baserunners. In the third, he came to the plate with runners on the corners and, again, struck out swinging.

We're seeing the same kind of slump that Bradley fell into in previous seasons, where even contact is hard to find, with nine strikeouts in the last 16 at-bats.

Problem is, with Andrew Benitendi on the DL, there aren't a lot of options for John Farrell with the Red Sox outfield.

 

Trying to get Fernando Abad and Junichi Tazawa back on track in low- leverage mop-up didn't work.

Tazawa had a perfect seventh, but gave up a monster shot into the center field bleachers to Lorenzo Cain to start the eighth.

Abad entered, and while he did record a couple of strikeouts, also gave up a single, a walk and threw a wild pitches before he could complete the inning.

Getting some work for the two was the right idea, given that the Sox were down by three runs at the time. A good outing might help either regain some confidence and turn the corner.

But not even that could be accomplished Friday night.