Lavarnway back up with the Red Sox

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Lavarnway back up with the Red Sox

BOSTON -- It was probably a bit longer than anybody might have expected, but 24-year-old Ryan Lavarnway is back in a Boston big league clubhouse.
The young catcher impressed Sox officials last season when he hit .231 with a pair of home runs and 8 RBIs in 17 games in Boston at the tail end of last season.
But Lavarnway had spent the entirety of this year at Triple-A Pawtucket paying his dues while waiting for another chance.
That all changed on Wednesday as the Sox sent outfielder Daniel Nava to the 15-day disabled list with a pair of sore wrists, and brought up Lavarnway to add a little more right-handed pop to the bench.
Lavarnway also gives the Sox another able-bodied catcher as Kelly Shoppach deals with a nagging shin injury caused by a couple of poorly placed foul balls off his in-step.
Both of his wrists have been bothering Nava a little, so were going to make sure he gets fully healed on the disabled list, said Bobby Valentine. Since Mike Aviles is still dealing with that turf toe and Kelly has the shin issue, Lavarnway is here for right-handed protection well need later in the game.
One thing Lavarnway wont be: the smartest guy in his clubhouse for the first time in his pro baseball career. Thats because the Red Sox also traded for fellow Yale graduate and molecular biophysicist enthusiast Craig Breslow during the July 31 trade deadline. Breslow was yet to arrive 90 minutes before game time due to inclement weather in Boston, and there was some question whether hed be ready for game time.
Ive never claimed to be the smartest guy in any room, but this might be the first time people dont give me credit for it, quipped Lavarnway.
Lavarnway slugged .295.376.439 in 367 at bats with the PawSox this season while serving as their every day catcher, and continued to add to his resume as one of Bostons best young prospects.
Strapping on the catching gear every day was something a little different for a player that had routinely switched off between designated hitter and catcher during his career.
But Lavarnway said he was enjoying the challenge, and his defense has vastly improved over the last couple of years.
Its great to be back. It doesnt matter what the situation is, said Lavarnway. Its been my first opportunity to catch on an everyday basis and Ive got to tell you its a lot different than DH-ing all the time.
Its more of a physical grind. I think Ive already caught 20 more games than I did all of last year, but Ive got a great postgame routine and my conditioning is as good as its ever been.
He knew he was headed for Boston after finishing a rain-delayed game around midnight on Tuesday night, and was clearly happy to be back. But Lavarnway also hadnt allowed frustration to creep into his mind while lodged behind Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Shoppach on the organization depth chart this season.
If you focus on the day-to-day routine then its easier, but if you get away from that then its a little tougher, said Lavarnway.
Did Lavarnway ever get ahead of himself in Pawtucket?
You try to focus as best you can, said a smiling Lavarnway.
Good answer, smart kid.

Are Red Sox entering spring training with fewer questions than ever?

Are Red Sox entering spring training with fewer questions than ever?

BOSTON -- Every year it seems like there are major issues or question marks to start spring training where the answers are up in the air.

In 2015, the Red Sox lacked an ace, had Hanley Ramirez moving to left field and Pablo Sandoval coming to town.

In 2016, Ramirez was moving back to the infield, but at a new position, and his bat was in question. Sandoval was coming off a year where he couldn’t hit his weight (he hit .245 and he last weighed in at 255 pounds). How would the starting rotation look after David Price?

This year, there seem to be three questions, but in a way, they’ve already been answered.

How will the Red Sox make up for David Ortiz’s absence?

Well, for one, the Red Sox have three Cy Young-caliber starting pitchers (Price, Chris Sale and Rick Porcello) in their rotation.

And two, Hanley Ramirez is coming off a career year with his highest career output in RBI (111) and second-highest home run total (30). And while Mitch Moreland isn’t the greatest hitter, he’s good for 20 or more home runs. Plus, it seems he’s holding a spot for a certain Red Sox prospect who’s bouncing back well from an injury.

 

Will Sandoval earn the starting third base job back?

The weight loss is a good sign, not only for the physical reasons, but it shows he’s mentally committed to being better.

However, that doesn’t guarantee he gets his job back.

“I’m not going to say [third base] resolved itself,” John Farrell told CSNNE.com, “but you know Panda’s done a very good job of committing to get himself in better shape and we’re looking forward to seeing that play to in spring training.”

Even if Panda can’t put it all together, Farrell told reporters before Thursday’s BBWAA dinner, both Brock Holt and Josh Rutledge would be competing for the job as well.

Holt as plan B -- in the infield? Who wouldn’t take that?

Who’s going to start at catcher?

Sandy Leon, Christian Vazquez and Blake Swihart each have their pros an cons.

Leon did it all last year, but went from hitting .383 in his first 39 games to .242 in his last 39.

Vazquez has Ivan Rodriguez-esque abilities behind the plate, but couldn’t keep the staff under control last year and cannot hit.

Swihart, who turns 25 April 3, is the youngest of the three, has the most potential at the plate, but is far and away the worst of the three defensively at the most important defensive position -- excluding pitcher -- on the field.

They all have their drawbacks, but they’ve all shown at some point why they can be the Red Sox starting catcher in the present and future.

Everywhere else, the Red Sox seem to be in a comfortable position as pitchers and catchers reporting to camp draws ever nearer.

“I think the fact that we’ve got veteran players that have done a great job in staying healthy [and] young players that are getting more establishing in their return, we’re in a pretty good place in terms of the overall status of our position player group,” Farrell told CSNNE.com.

And it seems some players are confident in the team’s options as they ready for camp.

“We’re looking good in a lot of areas,” shortstop Xander Bogaerts told CSNNE.com. “Especially the pitching staff, [since] we just got Chris Sale one of the best in the game.”

“Pablo’s definitely going to bounce back, especially with the weight he’s lost."

Francona, Epstein receive grand ovations at BBWAA dinner

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Francona, Epstein receive grand ovations at BBWAA dinner

BOSTON -- “I didn’t feel that love after I made a pitching change in the sixth inning,” Terry Francona said after a 45-second standing ovation from Boston fans upon receiving the MLB Manager of the Year award from the BBWAA Thursday.

It’s without question the love for Francona runs deep in the city. Why wouldn’t it? He was the leader in breaking the 86-year old curse, and wound up winning another World Series title for Boston three years later.

Actually, he was more of a co-leader, working alongside the same person who won the MLB Executive of the Year honors from the BBWAA for 2016.

Theo Epstein -- who received an ovation 17 seconds shorter than Francona, but who’s counting -- reminisced about the Red Sox ownership group that took a chance on a young kid who wasn’t necessarily the ideal candidate to take over as GM of a team, but now that’s helped him build the Chicago Cubs into a winning franchise and establish a great working environment.

This October marks 13 years since the ’04 championship, 10 years since ’07 and six years since the pair left Boston. Without question they’ve left their mark on the city and forever changed Red Sox baseball.

And while the fans showed their undying gratitude for Francona with an ovation almost as long as his acceptance speech, the Indians manager recognized the favor the current Red Sox brass has done for him.

“I’d like to thank Dave Dombrowski and the Red Sox for getting Chris Sale the hell out of the Central Division,” Francona said.