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.