Lavarnway ready to build on heady 2011 season

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Lavarnway ready to build on heady 2011 season

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.

Brown knows there's a lot he can learn from Celtics teammates

Brown knows there's a lot he can learn from Celtics teammates

WALTHAM, Mass. – It was the first official day of Jaylen Brown’s NBA education.

So like most youngsters on the first day of school, he wanted to make a favorable impression.

Showing up three-plus hours early? Yup. That’ll help. But punctuality will only take you so far.

As eager as he is to play, Brown is well aware that much of what he’ll be doing the first few days will be centered around learning.

“It’s a lot of stuff I have to learn,” Brown admitted in an interview with CSNNE.com. “We have a lot of experience on the floor. I want to be a sponge to these older guys as long as I am here. And keep adapting, keep growing every day in practice and get better.”

Having a steady thirst for improvement is an essential for any player coming into the NBA, but especially for a 19-year-old like Brown.

Avery Bradley was the 19th overall pick in the 2010 NBA draft and like Brown, he was just 19 years old coming into the league.

When I asked him what he wishes he knew as a rookie that he eventually learned over time, Bradley was succinct with his answer.

“Confidence,” he told CSNNE.com. “Just having more confidence. I wish I had more confidence in myself.”

Of course if you recall, Bradley spent his rookie season coming off the bench behind Ray Allen, one of the best shooting guards of his era who will someday wind up in the Naismith Hall of Fame.

There were others Bradley had to outperform just to get a shot at playing behind Ray Allen.

“There was Ray Allen, and Delonte West and Von Wafer,” said Bradley who added, “I was behind everybody and then we got Nate Robinson too.”

While the depth chart isn’t quite that deep for Brown, there’s no question he will have to hold his own and probably outplay a couple bodies in order to get a steady diet of playing time as a rookie.

“I love challenges,” Brown said. “This game is a beautiful game. I have a lot of people to compete and challenge me every day.  It’s exciting. I’m looking forward to the challenge and looking forward to coming out on top.”

Celtics forward/center Amir Johnson was 18 years old when the Detroit Pistons selected him straight out of high school in the second round of the 2005 NBA draft.

Johnson said he has been impressed with what he has seen from Brown the past couple of weeks during pick-up games and workouts.

And while it helps to have veterans around, Brown’s growth in this league will ultimately come down to how much he’s willing to listen and learn.

“If you’re a teen that wants to work and listen, sit back and be quiet,” Johnson told CSNNE.com. “I was that teen willing to listen and learn, willing to do whatever anybody told me to do. I listened to my veterans and my coaches, come in the gym early and stay late. I had a lot of help to get where I’m at today.”

That said, Brown will still have his naysayers who will focus on his youth, inexperience along with Boston’s depth as reasons for him to not do much early on his career.

Bradley knows a thing or two about that.

In Bradley’s second year with the Celtics he was in the starting lineup ahead of Allen which was one of many roles Bradley has been able to play surprisingly better than anticipated.

Bradley recalls how opposing players often think he is either shorter or doesn’t have as long a wingspan as they would expect.

“That plays to my advantage,” he said. “Everybody thinks I’m short or I’m not long. People are going to say the same thing about Jaylen. A lot of people think he can’t do this, can’t do that. That’s the part about this game I love; you can surprise people and that’s what I think he’s going to do.”