Ryan Lavarnway's Productivity Forces A Promotion





BOSTON—Since 2008, no one in the Red Sox system has been as consistent a hitter as catcher Ryan Lavarnway. Indeed, it's not particularly close, a fact that gave the organization little choice but to promote the 23-year-old Yale alum to Triple-A Pawtucket.

A sixth-round pick in 2008, Lavarnway started slowly in Double-A this year, hitting .216/.272/.365 in 18 games in April. Yet those numbers were misleading.

"We were getting reports saying, 'Don't worry about it. This guy is smoking the ball,' " Sox farm director Mike Hazen said. "Things started to fall—more often, over the wall—in May and June."

Indeed, the 6-foot-4, 225-pound masher dominated Double-A pitching after the season's first month. In 37 games since the start of May, he was hitting .343/.408/.590 with 11 homers. He was hitting for average, hitting for power and controlling the strike zone, something he's done almost from the moment that he was promoted to Portland almost a year ago.

"I'd say he has a pretty good handle on the competition there. It's time to challenge him," Hazen said. "This is a pretty good bat here, and he needs to face better pitching."

It is Lavarnway's defense that will determine his future big league role. In that respect, after he made major strides in 2010, the Sox suggest that they have seen continued progress this year, even as they acknowledge that there is further room to grow.

In 26 games behind the plate at Portland, he gunned down 14-of-37 basestealers, a 37.8 percent rate that ranked among the best in the system. An American League scout suggested Lavarnway "physically looks like a catcher and has the tools, but he needs more work and development."

The Sox don't disagree. For that matter, nor does Lavarnway, who has received raves in the organization for his tireless efforts to improve his defense.

"I don't think it's picture perfect. I don't know that it's ever going to be picture perfect. But the guy's thrown out a lot of baserunners," Hazen said. "We just felt like he's been in Double-A for close to a year, and we felt like it was sort of time to challenge him."

Sox Yarns

• Lefthander Andrew Miller pitched 20 consecutive innings without allowing a walk for Pawtucket prior to a callup by the Red Sox on June 20.

• Lefthander Tommy Hottovy, who spent at least some time in each of six straight seasons (2006-11) with Double-A Portland, made his big league debut on June 3.