Lavarnway looks to take next step during off-season


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.

Haggerty: So what exactly has happened to the Bruins-Habs rivalry?


Haggerty: So what exactly has happened to the Bruins-Habs rivalry?

BRIGHTON, MASS -- It didn’t take last season’s embarrassing Winter Classic result to figure out something has been missing from the storied, legendary Bruins-Canadiens rivalry over the last few years.

The last traces of the latest, great incarnation of the B’s-Habs rivalry were clearly still there a couple of seasons ago when the two hockey clubs met in the second round of the playoffs. After falling short the last few times the teams met in the postseason, Boston was summarily dismissed by Montreal in Game 7 on their own home ice during that series. The following season the B’s simply had so many of their own players struggling to put out a consistent effort, so the games against the Habs didn’t really register highly on the importance scale, and last season both Boston and Montreal suffered through subpar seasons that saw them each fall short of the playoffs.

Since the second round loss to the Habs in the 2013-14 playoffs, the Bruins are 2-7 while being outscored by a 31-18 margin in nine regular season meetings over the last two seasons in an incredibly one-sided chapter in the two teams’ shared history. The real lack of competitiveness has been a noticeable lack of deep emotion or ill will on the ice between the two hockey clubs, and that is very different from the recent past when signature players like Milan Lucic, P.K. Subban and Shawn Thornton were card-carrying members of healthy hate that regularly spilled out on the ice between the two rival NHL organizations.

Instead it will probably be new blood that breathes glorious, hard-edged life into the history between the two Original Six teams, and new personalities like David Backes, Shea Weber and Andrew Shaw are likely to do just that. Certainly the Canadiens wanted to be much more difficult to play against in recruiting players like Shaw and Weber, and, their presence along with the offensively explosive Alex Radulov, could make it a tough matchup for the Black and Gold.

Either way, the Bruins are curious to see what the matchup looks like this season with the electric P.K. Subban removed from the mix as one of the classic Habs villain-type characters from a Boston perspective.

“It’s always fun to play Montreal at home, or in Montreal. This will be our second time counting the preseason, and our first time at the Garden. It’s going to be pretty cool,” said David Krejci. “When you say any NHL team there are a few names that pop out for that team, and [P.K. Subban] was definitely one of them [for Montreal]. But P.K. is gone, and now it’s Shea Weber. So it’s going to be a little different, but he’s a hell of a player as well so it isn’t going to be any easier.

“It’s a big game. It’s a division game. We don’t want to take any game lightly within the 82 games because you don’t know what can happen at the end. When those games against [Montreal] are done you always feel like you’ve played two games, and not just one. It’s high intensity, and it’s obviously a rivalry that you get up for.”

As Bruins head coach Claude Julien would say it, things are a bit too civilized between the two enemy teams when thinking back to the days of Georges Laraque chasing Milan Lucic around the ice challenging him a fight on the Bell Centre ice, or the awful epoch in B’s-Habs history when Zdeno Chara clobbered Max Pacioretty with a dangerous, injury-inducing hit into the stanchion area.

Nobody is looking for players to get hurt on borderline plays when the two teams suit up on Saturday night, but something to introduce a new chapter into the Boston-Montreal rivalry would be a good thing for both teams, a good thing for the fans and a potentially great thing for an NHL that prides itself on good, old-fashioned rivalries.

“We need to make sure that we’re ready to play [on Saturday]. I like the way that we’ve played so far, and except for Toronto we’ve managed to compete with all of the teams that we’ve played against,” said Julien. “I don’t know if it’s going to stay that way, but I’m going to use the word that [the rivalry] has been more civilized for the last few years. There hasn’t been as much of the sideshow as there has been [in the past].

“I think there’s still a lot of hatred between the two organizations when they meet, but I think the way the game is trending, and how costly that penalties can be in a game, both teams are a little cautious in that way. I still think there is great intensity and both teams get up for the games, so hopefully that happens tomorrow, and the fans get to see a good game.”

One thing that should ensure a good, familiar showdown with plenty of hard-hitting and honest-to-goodness rivalry-like behavior: both the Canadiens and Bruins are off to strong starts at the top of the Atlantic Division in the first couple of weeks this season, and there are some new faces that are undoubtedly going to want to announce their presence for these Bruins-Habs tilts with authority.

Let’s hope this happens because last season’s Bruins-Habs games needed a pair of jumper cables and 1.21 jigowatts of electricity to shock them back into their elevated level of intensity, and that’s when hockey is served best after all.