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.

Blakely: Celtics made the right choice in not pursuing Cousins

Blakely: Celtics made the right choice in not pursuing Cousins

NEW ORLEANS -- There will be a significant faction of Celtics Nation who will see DeMarcus Cousins’ trade to New Orleans as a lost opportunity for the C's, who could have offered a much more enticing trade package than the one the Sacramento Kings accepted.
 
The Kings received nothing even remotely close to a king’s ransom for Cousins, acquiring him in exchange for rookie Buddy Hield, journeyman Langston Galloway and ex-Pelican Tyreke Evans (who has never been the same since his Rookie of the Year season in 2010), along with a protected first-round pick and a future second-round selection.

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While the knee-jerk reaction is to focus on why Boston decided to not pursue a trade for Cousins, more important is what the non-decision means for the moment and going forward.
 
Think about what the Celtics have done in the last three-plus seasons.
 
They went from being a lottery team to one that has the second-best record in the East. They're holding the potential No. 1 overall pick in the upcoming draft; at worst, the pick will be in the top four or five. They have three of the most team-friendly contracts (Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley and Jae Crowder) in the NBA. They have promising prospects overseas as well as in the D-League. And they're led by a coach who has improved his coaching acumen -- and the team’s win total -- every year he's been on the job.
 
And it's all enveloped by a culture with a high level of selflessness, which has created a locker-room environment that has been more about fighting for each other than fighting one another or others off the court.
 
Do you really think Cousins’ talent would have trumped the baggage he'd be bringing to the Celtics if they'd acquired him?
 
For him to have fit in with this team would have required him to make the kind of changes that, frankly, I just don’t see him being capable of making at this point.
 
On more than one occasion, “not fitting in” with the Celtics culture was given to me as the reason why a Cousins-to-Boston trade never gained any traction with the team’s brass. Or coaching staff, for that matter.
 
While there's no denying that he's arguably the best center in the NBA, Cousins is a high-risk, high-reward talent that makes sense to pursue if you're a franchise which has nothing to lose by adding him to the mix. Like, say, New Orleans.
 
The Pelicans are 11th in the Western Conference despite having Anthony Davis, who has been asked to carry the weight of a franchise that has yet to figure out the best combination of talent to surround him with and find success.
 
The addition of Cousins not only provides Davis some major help, but serves as a reminder of just how desperate the Pelicans are.
 
While there are mixed reports on whether the package of assets the Kings agreed to was the best they could have received for Cousins, there was no way they were going to get anything close to comparable talent in exchange for him.
 
And that was solely due to the risk that any team was willing to take on in order to acquire him.
 
At some point, the Celtics need to take advantage of an opportunity to go all-in for a superstar player. But this was not that time, or that player.