KANSAS CITY – Ryan Lavarnway is in the starting lineup for Sunday’s series finale in Kansas City. With a day game after a night game, catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia is getting a day off.
It is just Lavarnway’s 14th game behind the plate this season, all since David Ross went on the disabled list June 18 with a concussion. Tuesday night in Houston, catching knuckleballer Steven Wright, Lavarnway tied a dubious major league record with four passed balls in one inning.
Lavarnway was once the highly-prized catching prospect in the organization. So much so they let Tim Federowicz, who came up through the Sox system with Lavarnway but was regarded as a better defensive catcher, go to the Dodgers at the trading deadline in 2011 as part of the three-team deal that brought Eric Bedard to the Sox. Federowicz is now the Dodgers’ back-up catcher.
Asked if the Sox had seen enough of Lavarnway this season to make a full evaluation in the offseason, manager John Farrell replied:
“The one thing we can say is there’s been improvements behind the plate defensively, without a question. His transfer, his throwing has improved. As a young player in the role he’s in without consistent at-bats up here, it’s challenging. We recognize that. But he’s handle the staff well. Most if not all games he’s been involved in they’ve been low-scoring games. I think that speaks to his game-calling ability. I think every time he’s on the field you get a little bit more information. But to say that there’s going to be a full grasp of the ultimate player he’ll become or will be, I don’t know that we’re able to say that yet.
“When he’s in a game he runs the game very well.”
One element of Lavarnway’s game that has been lacking in recent seasons is his power. After hitting a combined .290 with 32 home runs, 93 RBI, a .376 OBP, and .563 SLG in 116 combined games between Double-A Portland and Triple-A Pawtucket in 2011, those numbers have fallen off. With the Sox this season, Lavarnway is batting .250 with no home runs, six RBI, a .298 on-base percentage, and .365 slugging percentage. In 39 games with Triple-A Pawtucket this season, he was batting .359 with three home runs, 21 RBI, a .367 OBP, and .388 SLG. In 83 games with Pawtucket in 2012, he hit .295, with eight home runs, 43 RBI, a .376 OBP, and .439 SLG.
“It’s something that we’ve discussed internally,” Farrell said. “Can’t say that there’s something psychical that has taken away from that. Playing against upper level pitching [could be one reason].”
Those are among the questions the Red Sox must answer before they take the chance of losing Jarrod Saltalamacchia to free agency.