For Ryan Lavarnway, last season was a bit of a whirlwind.
Understandable, considering that he started in Double-A Portland, was promoted to Triple-A Pawtucket in June, and ended the season by starting the last two games behind the plate for the Red Sox.
You go into the season in spring training and you set . . . lofty goals for yourself to try to reach . . . and things that you want to strive to do, said Lavarnway by phone on Tuesday from Arizona, where he has been working out at Athletes Performance since the start of the year. Getting to the big leagues was exactly what I had hoped to do, but hadnt fully expected . . .
"To get an opportunity to play at the big-league level, and then to perform and not to feel too many butterflies, it was great. It was a lot of moving around, a lot of living out of my suitcase. But it was everything that I had hoped that it would be, and I hope that this next year can have a lot of the same.
Lavarnway, who turned 24 in August, was the Sox eighth pick (sixth round) in the 2008 draft out of Yale. He hit a combined .290 with 32 home runs, tied for fourth among all minor-leaguers, and 93 RBI in 116 games for Portland and Pawtucket last season. In 61 games after his June 13 promotion to Triple A, he led the International League in home runs, with 18, and slugging percentage (.612).
Lavarnway will be in Boston next week to pick up his Red Sox Minor League Player of the Year Award at the Boston BBWAA dinner. Anxious to get the season started, hell report to Fort Myers on Feb. 1, nearly three weeks before pitchers and catchers are due to report. He believes it'll take about that long to take the rust off his swing, and perhaps a little longer to hone his catching skills. (Toward that end, he caught his first bullpen session of the offseason on Tuesday, working with Phillies left-hander Dontrelle Willis at AP.)
He hasnt talked much with veteran catchers Jason Varitek or Jarrod Saltalamacchia this offseason. Varitek was remarried this winter and Lavarnway wanted to respect his privacy. He saw Saltalamacchia when both were in Boston for the teams holiday caravan last month, and says hell call him again before he goes to Florida.
Lavarnway, though, has not worked with Sox bullpen coachcatching guru Gary Tuck this winter, as Saltalamacchia did last year.
Ive been in contact with Tuck, Lavarnway said. We talk a lot about whats going on and drills and what we need to do to maintain and build. But I havent been working with him in person yet. Hopefully on Feb. 1 well be able to get going again.
Lavarnway wasn't surprised by the Sox signing of veteran catcher Kelly Shoppach on Dec. 13, and took no offense at the move.
I was under no illusion that starting two games behind the plate was going to win me a job going into this year, he said. I still know and I feel that I have to earn my way and the more time, the more opportunity that I have the more that Im going to try to do that.
Like last season, he has goals for this year.
I like to set round-number goals performance-wise for myself: 25 homers, .300 average, 100 RBI, he said. But big-picture goals, I see that Saltys the starter. We signed Kelly Shoppach. I just want to prepare myself and put myself in a situation where if any opportunity does arise for me to make that team, that Im ready and Ive built a lot of trust so I can be the guy.
I feel like I got one foot in the door now. The next thing for me is to get two feet firmly on the ground, and establish myself as a permanent big leaguer and be there all the time.