Move Behind The Plate Paying Off For Red Sox' Lavarnway

BOSTON—Among the current crop of Red Sox catchers, Ryan Lavarnway tends to get overlooked. Perhaps that's because he did not move behind the plate until relatively recently. 

Lavarnway asked his coaches at Yale to shift him behind the dish prior to his sophomore year. He had caught in Little League and on his high school junior varsity team, and felt that he could become a better player at the position.

"I knew it was something that I had enjoyed, and something that helped me stay mentally in the game," Lavarnway said. "I learned the strike zone, track the pitches, it helped my vision."

That proved to be the case at Yale as well. In that sophomore season, Lavarnway led the country with a .467 average and .873 slugging mark. He went on to set the Ivy League career home run record with 33, and was drafted by Boston in the sixth round after his junior season of 2008. 

In 2009, his first full season as a pro, Lavarnway hit .285/.367/.540 for low Class A Greenville with 21 homers—most of any player in the system. His offense would have put him in line for a promotion to high Class A Salem, but the Sox wanted him to get an opportunity to catch everyday with Greenville rather than splitting time with Tim Federowicz. This year, the 22-year-old Lavarnway opened the season on a tear for high Class A Salem. Through 24 games, Lavarnway was hitting .323/.387/.581 with six home runs and 26 RBIs in 102 at-bats. He has demonstrated excellent command of the strike zone along with solid raw power. 

"He controls the strike zone. He has a little bit of pop. He has a very good swing," farm director Mike Hazen said. "He's got a lot of interesting pieces to the puzzle."

Though Lavarnway was spending more time at designated hitter than catcher in the season's first month—a result of his being teamed with Tim Federowicz—the Sox insist that he has made major strides in his defense. The team anticipates that he will continue his development as a catcher as he moves up the ladder. 

"He's a much better player this year than last year," Salem manager Kevin Boles said. "Before, he was considered a bat who might be able to catch. Now we're looking at a guy, the bat is definitely there. But his defensive skills, he's impressing a lot of people with how much he's improved."

Sox Yarns

• Lars Anderson was promoted to Triple-A Pawtucket in late April after hitting .355/.408/.677/ for Double-A Portland.

• The Red Sox were targeting early June as a return date to games for infielder Jed Lowrie, who was sidelined by mono since spring training.