FORT MYERS, Fla. – Ryan Lavarnway understands the deal.
There are two veteran catchers on the Red Sox roster in Jarrod Saltalmacchia and David Ross, the Red Sox are most likely only going to carry two catchers, and Lavarnway has an option.
It’s a dynamic that Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington took a step toward clarifying in his comments Saturday, saying, “Well, right now, our expectation is Salty and Ross, their the two proven guys and we signed Ross for a reason and Salty has continued to build on each year and has added some things and gotten better and he’s a power threat and capable of being one of the best catchers in the league. We’ve seen that. We’ve seen other parts of season where he’s struggled. He’s still a young guy. We expect him to continue to develop and he might be even better this year than he was last year. We think Salty and Ross complement each other well. And we feel pretty good about where we are catching-wise.
“Ryan Lavarnway has come a long way. We think he’s going to be a really good player for us. Sometimes the sort of clock doesn’t start exactly w hen the player wants to. He’s proven at the triple a level that he’s capable of helping a major league team. That’s going to happen. We just don’t know exactly when.”
Lavarnway’s take on the situation?
“For me, I want to win the World Series,” he said. “It doesn’t matter if I’m there for however long. We play this game to win and if you’re not playing this game to win then I don’t know why you’re playing. However I can help. If they want me to do something else to get better other than being on the active roster then I’ll go down and get better and I’ll help us win more later. But I think I can help us win and help the pitchers be their best. The last couple of years haven’t been fun because we’re not winning and we have to get back to that.”
Lavarnway, who played in 46 games with the Red Sox last season after totaling 17 appearances in the majors in 2011, said nobody has discussed the situation with him. So, for now, the 25-year-old is solely focusing on what he can control.
What the catcher did was go out and change his body once again, this time adding 10 pounds of muscle to his frame while working out in Colorado. It was a strategy born from the reality that became ’12.
“In years past I focused a lot of on losing weight and trying to get stronger while at the same time being lighter. This year I didn’t concern myself so much with losing weight. I just wanted to be really strong,” he said. “I lost 28 pounds last year. I actually lost it twice because I got sick the one time. It had more of an effect on me than I thought and didn’t notice it until later. That’s not a healthy transition for me to go through it twice. I noticed it later in the year.
“At the beginning offspring training Ben had said, ‘We want to try and stay thinner this year,’ where in years past I’ve had strong second halves and that was when I was heavier. But I’m strong right now. Guys I’ve told I was going to stay heavier said, ‘I thought you were going to stay heavier.’ I told them, ‘I am.’ I’m lean, but I’m still heavy at the same time, so that’s good.”
A chief concern of Lavarnway’s was his inability to produce the kind of power that had put his talents on Major League Baseball’s radar in ’11. That year he hit 32 homers in the minors, with a .939 OPS. During his time in the minors in ’12, the righty hitter totaled eight homers and an .815 OPS.
“A lot of the year I hit a lot of fly balls to the warning track. There were lot of not-quites,” said Lavarnway, who is at 240 pounds, up 10 pounds from a year ago. “I think I started to try and manufacture power, and that’s not how I hit. When you start trying to force it that’s never good.
“It’s frustrating to be hitting to the warning track and then the next hitter is Middlebrooks and he’s hitting it 50 feet over the fence, so you can’t blame the wind because somebody is putting it out. The year before I was the guy that it felt like every other day I was hitting them. It got a little bit frustrating, I tried to force it and that’s not good. This year I want to stay a little more discipline, and hopefully stay strong because I feel great right now.”
And, for Lavarnway, it was more than just the home runs.
“For me it’s about discipline because the harder I swing the ball isn’t going to go any farther,” he said. “When I swing harder, my swing is longer, I don’t get to the pitch inside as well and you end up missing pitches if you didn’t swing as hard you probably would hit 400 feet. Also, you aren’t going to hit a bad pitch well. I want to get back to my discipline and that will bring success with it.”