Boston Red Sox

PawSox' Lavarnway tearing up Triple-A

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PawSox' Lavarnway tearing up Triple-A

By Maureen Mullen
CSNNE.com Follow @maureenamullen
PAWTUCKET, R.I. Its not supposed to be easy for a player recently promoted to Triple A. Hes supposed to go through a period of adjustment, struggling in his first few weeks at least. Intimidated by his new surroundings. Wary of the veteran players. Overmatched by better pitching.

Apparently no one has told Ryan Lavarnway that.

Guys can come up here and they can intimidate themselves and think that they have to try to do something different, Lavarnway said. But its really the same game. Pitchers got to throw the ball over the plate, and you got to hit it.

He has certainly done that.

Since being promoted from Double-A Portland on June 13, Lavarnway has mashed International League pitching for a .337 average, going 49-for-130 in 34 games, with 12 home runs, 33 RBI, an on-base percentage of .445 and a .746 slugging percentage.

I think everybodys really surprised by it just because you see guys get hot for a week or so, said Pawtucket manager Arnie Beyeler, who also managed Lavarnway after his midseason call-up to Portland last year.

But its not surprising because of the consistency of his approach and how he goes about things. But even last year when he came up to Portland, he swung the bat really well when he started out and then went into a week or so where he wasnt as effective and then came back and swung the bat again. So you see guys go up and down. But to see a guy be as consistent as hes been, I think everybody's probably surprised at it. But he continues to do a good job and have good at-bats. Guys are pitching to him and he keeps hitting the ball hard.

Tuesday night against Lehigh Valley Lavarnway hit one of the hardest balls most observers at McCoy Stadium have seen in a long time. His 11th home run of the season landed on the roof of the concession shed in straightaway center field, a press box guesstimate of 435 feet.

Hes a smart hitter, said PawSox hitting coach Chili Davis. He works.

Hes selective at the plate. He works on his swing in the cage. He comes to batting practice, takes the same program, the same approach to BP and he goes in the games with that same approach. So theres a whole lot of trust for what he does in pregame that he takes into the game. He knows what his strengths are. Hes impressed me with how he approaches situations especially with RBIs, RBIs with two outs. Hes even more focused in those situations.

One at-bat in particular has impressed Davis.

A kid was closing a game the other day, Davis said. It wasa pretty close ballgame. The kid was throwing 94, 95 mph, and he had a pretty good curveball. Everyone was worried about his curveball and his fastball. I watched Ryan. He went up there and the pitcher threw him two fastballs and got behind in the count, 2-0. It was a situation where Ryan could hurt him, and he threw him a get-me-over hanging curveball and Lavarnway took it. He ended up working the count to 3-2 and the guy threw him a slider, or something down and he flew out to centerfield.

Lavarnway was out, but it was the discipline that impressed Davis.

After the game, we lost, and I looked at him and said, What a great at-bat, Davis said. And he looked at me. I said, Yeah, I know you made an out but what a great at-bat that was because that was discipline right there. A lot of hitters would be 2-0 cheating on a fastball and see the curveball, get out front, and make the out anyway, but you didnt. I said, You had two options there. Youve been hot. Youve beat him a couple times. You could say to yourself, hey this guy is not going to throw me a fastball. If he hangs something off-speed, Im going to beat him with it, and sit on that pitch. Its only one pitch. Or you could do exactly what you did: I dont care what you throw. Youre a power pitcher. Im sitting dead red and if I get dead red Im going to jump on it and if I dont, Im going to take it. And thats exactly what he did.

Hes not afraid to get beat. Hes not afraid to be behind in the count. Hes not afraid to get to two strikes. When youre swinging good and youre confident, you react. When youre not swinging good, and youve lost some confidence in your approach or your bat speed or whatever, then you start cheating and you start guessing. Then you dont want to be in a two-strike situation because the whole array of pitches comes at you then, including the kitchen sink.

Since being drafted by the Sox in the sixth round out of Yale in the 2008 draft, Lavarnway has hit at every level. In four seasons, he has a combined .291 average, with a .380 on-base percentage and .526 slugging percentage.

Its never been his offense that has been questioned.Drafted as a third baseman, he was moved behind the plate in his first season with the Sox. Some observers have questioned his ability there, though.Whether he ends up as a big league catcher remains to be seen.

Everybody always asks about his catching and his defense, said Beyeler. But all he does iscatch the ball and throw guys out. Thats all Ive seen in a year and half. Hes been solid since Ive seen him.

For Lavarnway, who turns 24 on Aug. 7, this is his first time working with an older staff. It can be intimidating for a younger catcher, learning the pitchers, their strengths and weaknesses, knowing which pitches to call in certain situations, and doing it with confidence.

I think maybe at first it can be intimidating until they get to know each other or until they get to know pitchers and how we talk, said right-hander Brandon Duckworth. Some guys I think it definitely could be. But were pretty laid back when it comes to that stuff here, and well talk to him. Were not afraid to say, Look, if you have a feeling on something, put the fingers back down. Theres got to be a reason. And, if it works, great, and if it doesnt work, you talk about it in between innings.' So I think its just mainly trying to help them with the focus more so in a situation, to have the confidence to say, Hey, this is the right pitch in this situation, this count.

This season, Lavarnway has thrown out 35 percent (19 of 55) of would-be basestealers between Portland and Pawtucket, 38 percent (14 of 37) with Portland and 28 percent (5 of 18). Those numbers are respectable, but some observers still have reservations.

I think hes a back-up catcher, said one scout. His receiving skills are ok. But he doesnt throw well. Hes not that athletic. He really has a below-average throwing arm, and its not like he has a real quick release either. But he receives the ball well, and blocks the ball OK. So you could get by. But eventually whats going to happen is his value is going to be how much offense he gives you. His bodys not going to get any better. Its just going to end up getting worse at some point, and its pretty thick right now.

When I evaluate catchers, if you dont really notice them, that means theyre doing a good job. The guys that are bad, theyre always bouncing left, bouncing right, turning around, calling time out. They really dont have a good feel for the game. This kid, obviously hes intelligent. You dont go to Yale if youre dumb. I think he has a feel for it. His actual receiving of the ball is fine, but his range and his throwing. But hes thrown out 29 percent of the runners this year. There are some guys in the big leagues that are less than that. Youre not going to know with a kid like this until he gets up there and you find out.

The Sox may find out with Lavarnway soon. He is a likely candidate for a September call-up if not before.

I think hes got the type of swing that I dont think theres a lot of maintenance there, where he could sit for a few days and still be able to square a ball up, if he comes in off the bench, said the scout.

When you get to the big leagues and youre facing CC Sabathia, AJ Burnett, and then you go to Detroit and youve got to face Justin Verlander, thats a whole different game. Those guys can put you in a slump in a hurry. They dont make the mistakes that other guys make. But there are guys that make mistakes. And, when you can hit with that type of power, they're going to want you around. I dont blame them.

Maureen Mullen is on Twitter at http:twitter.commaureenamullen.

A's Maxwell becomes first MLB player to kneel during anthem

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A's Maxwell becomes first MLB player to kneel during anthem

OAKLAND, Calif. -- Bruce Maxwell of the Oakland Athletics became the first major league baseball player to kneel during the national anthem Saturday, pulling the sport into a polarizing protest movement that has been criticized harshly by President Donald Trump.

Before a home game against the Texas Rangers, Maxwell dropped to a knee just outside Oakland's dugout, adopting a protest started by former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick in response to police treatment of blacks. The 26-year-old rookie catcher pressed his right hand against his heart, and teammates stood in a line next to him. Teammate Mark Canha, who is white, put his right hand on one of Maxwell's shoulders, and the two hugged after the anthem finished.

"Everybody watches sports and so everybody loves sports, so I felt this was the right thing for me to do personally," Maxwell said.

Maxwell's protest comes after Trump blasted football players and rescinded a White House invitation for NBA champion Stephen Curry in a two-day rant that targeted top professional athletes.

"That's a total disrespect of everything that we stand for," Trump said of kneeling through the anthem. He added, "Wouldn't you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, you'd say, `Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out! He's fired."

Maxwell informed A's manager Bob Melvin and general manager David Forst of his intention to kneel before Saturday's game. He also held a team meeting in which he addressed questions from teammates. Maxwell did not play in Oakland's 1-0 win.

Canha approached Maxwell after the meeting to offer his support.

"I could tell he was getting kind of choked up and emotional about his beliefs and how he feels about the racial discrimination that's going on in this country right now," Canha said. "I felt like every fiber in my being was telling me that he needed a brother today."

The Athletics released a statement on Twitter shortly after the anthem, saying they "respect and support all of our players' constitutional rights and freedom of expression" and "pride ourselves on being inclusive."

The league also issued a statement: "Major League Baseball has a longstanding tradition of honoring our nation prior to the start of our games. We also respect that each of our players is an individual with his own background, perspectives and opinions. We believe that our game will continue to bring our fans, their communities and our players together."

Maxwell was born in Wiesbaden, Germany, while his father was stationed there in the Army, but he grew up in Huntsville, Alabama, which is where Trump made his statements at a rally Friday.

"The racism in the South is disgusting," Maxwell said. "It bothers me, and it hits home for me because that's where I'm from. The racism in the South is pretty aggressive, and I dealt with it all the way through my childhood, and my sister went through it. I feel that that's something that needs to be addressed and that needs to be changed."

League executives and star players alike condemned Trump's words on Saturday, and Maxwell predicted on Twitter that athletes would begin kneeling in other sports following "comments like that coming from our president."

A few hours later, he followed through.

"This now has gone from just a BlackLives Matter topic to just complete inequality of any man or woman that wants to stand for Their rights!" Maxwell wrote.

Maxwell is decidedly patriotic and comes from a military family. His agent, Matt Sosnick, told The Associated Press that "the Maxwells' love and appreciation for our country is indisputable."

"Bruce has made it clear that he is taking a stand about what he perceives as racial injustices in this country, and his personal disappointment with President Trump's response to a number of professional athletes' totally peaceful, non-violent protests.

"Bruce has shared with both me and his teammates that his feelings have nothing to do with a lack of patriotism or a hatred of any man, but rather everything to do with equality for men, women and children regardless of race or religion."

Red Sox move closer to A.L. East title with 5-0 win over Reds

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Red Sox move closer to A.L. East title with 5-0 win over Reds

CINCINNATI -- The Red Sox took another step toward a division title, putting up another shutout that ended with a feel-good moment for their manager.

Mitch Moreland ended his long slump with a three-run homer, Eduardo Rodriguez pitched three-hit ball into the eighth inning, and Boston beat the Cincinnati Reds 5-0 on Saturday.

Boston has won 13 of 16, holding a four-game lead over the Yankees with eight to play. The Red Sox are trying to win back-to-back AL East titles for the first time since divisional realignment in 1969. They've got their best record of the season at 90-64, reaching 90 wins for the second year in a row.

It ended with a ninth inning that was unlike anything manager John Farrell has experienced. His son, Luke, relieved for the Reds, giving them a special moment in a competitive situation.

"It was somewhat surreal," he said. "Very proud. You're standing there looking through a netting in the dugout and you think you're maybe watching him throw back in Little League, in high school. To see it happen on a major league mound -- a special day, a special inning."

The reliever walked two in a scoreless inning and glanced back at the Boston dugout, momentarily removing his cap, as he headed for the Reds dugout.

"There was a little added pressure for me," said Luke Farrell, who like his father wears No. 52. "That's the first time we've been on the same field together. You want to do well for your team."

The last time a manager faced his son as an opposing player was 2004, when the Giants' Felipe Alou went against his son Moises of the Cubs.

"There's a major conflict going on inside," John Farrell said. "You're always pulling for your guys, but that's a unique arrangement there."

The Red Sox got what they wanted, closing in on a title with an offense that's an anomaly in the homer-heavy major leagues. Moreland's shot off Robert Stephenson (5-6) was the 160th by a Red Sox, fewest in the American League.

"That gives us a little breathing room," said Moreland, who broke an 0-for-19 slump with only his second homer in September. "That was nice."

Rodriguez (6-6) has given up two or fewer earned runs in each of his last four starts, the best stretch of his career. The left-hander gave up three singles and two walks in 7 2/3 innings, his longest outing since May 21, making sure he'll be in the conversation for a prominent postseason role.

He would love a chance to start a playoff game.

"That's going to be the best feeling in the world," he said. "That's what people who have started in the playoffs tell me."

The Red Sox have shutout victories in three of their last four games, including two at Baltimore. They are 7-1 on a trip that ends Sunday. Boston wraps up the regular season at Fenway Park with three games against Toronto and four against Houston.

HOMECOMING

Red Sox outfielder Andrew Benintendi , who grew up in suburban Madeira and had hundreds of relatives and friends in the stands for the series, singled home a run in the seventh at the ballpark where he regularly attended games as a youth.

INTERLEAGUE

The Red Sox are 11-1 against the Reds all-time in their interleague series. The Reds beat the Red Sox in seven games for the 1975 World Series championship. Overall, Boston is 15-4 in interleague play this season. The Reds are 5-14.

RED TO GREEN

The Reds wore green jerseys and caps as part of their day honoring Irish heritage.

GOODBYE BRONSON

The Reds and Red Sox honored pitcher Bronson Arroyo , who is retiring at age 40. He came back from several years of arm problems and made 14 starts for Cincinnati this season before ending his comeback. Tributes on the videoboard included one from Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam. Among his gifts were a customized guitar and guitar case. He performed with a band on the field after the game.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Red Sox: RF Mookie Betts was scratched from the lineup to get treatment on his left foot. He fouled a pitch off it during his second at-bat on Friday night but stayed in the game. It bothered him running on Saturday pregame. ... INF Eduardo Nunez plans to run on Sunday, the next test as he recovers from a sprained knee,

Reds: CF Billy Hamilton broke his left thumb while bunting on Sept. 6 and returned Friday night, getting two hits. He was out of the lineup on Saturday as the Reds ease him back into playing.

UP NEXT

Red Sox: Doug Fister (5-8) is 2-0 with a 1.35 ERA in three career starts against the Reds.

Reds: Rookie Jackson Stephens (2-0) makes his third career start. He gave up five runs in 3 2/3 innings of an 8-7 loss to the Cardinals on Tuesday.

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