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Red Sox Rookie Development Program Notes

01.19.11 at 3:31 pm ET
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The Red Sox Rookie Development Program, a two-week program for prospects considered to be 12 to 18 months from the major leagues, is in full swing. Players work out twice a day and get acclimated to major league life both on and off the field, whether through trips into the Fenway Park clubhouse or visits to the Dana Farber Cancer Institute to meet with Jimmy Fund patients. Perhaps most importantly for the participants, they gain the opportunity to work with and meet the major league coaching staff, and to make first impressions that may carry into spring training.

This year’s participants are Robert Coello, Tim Federowicz, Stephen Fife, Ryan Lavarnway, Juan Carlos Linares, Will Middlebrooks, Stolmy Pimentel, Jason Rice, Clevelan Santeliz, Oscar Tejeda and Alex Wilson. For a closer look at that group, click here.

On Wednesday, the players players and farm director Mike Hazen met with the media. Some highlights:

–There is no doubt that the Red Sox farm system looks different after three top prospects — Casey Kelly, Anthony Rizzo and Reymond Fuentes — were dealt to the Padres for Adrian Gonzalez. But Hazen said that the team still feels good about its prospect pool, particularly about a group of players who will offer depth to the big league club this year.

“We still feel we have a really strong farm system overall, even with the removal of three of our top prospects. Those guys are moving up from Double-A into Triple-A. We’€™ve seen a number of those guys come up and graduate, not necessarily graduate, but get on to that shuttle so to speak — [Ryan] Kalish, [Josh] Reddick, [Daniel] Nava, [Felix] Doubront, those types of players. Those guys are still going to be, until they establish themselves, more than likely, in that same position.

“That adds a level of depth that we haven’€™t had in the past with guys like [Jose] Iglesias [and Yamaico] Navarro among others that will be coming. Even some of those younger high school kids a chance to go up through the Double-A level, guys like Middlebrooks and Tejeda and some of those kids. … Any time you lose players the caliber of Rizzo, Kelly and Fuentes, that’€™s going to take a little bit of a hit, but we still feel like we have a lot of really strong players that are going to come up through the next couple of years.”

Ryan Kalish, Bobby Jenks and Andrew Miller were all working out with the prospects at Boston College on Wednesday. Darnell McDonald has also been a speaker for this year’s program.

Jose Iglesias will be evaluated during spring training to make a determination about what assignment will best serve his development. The Sox were pleased with his performance in Double-A Portland and the Arizona Fall League in 2010, but because he lost a couple months to a broken index finger, it remains to be seen whether he returns to Portland or graduates to Triple-A Pawtucket.

Oscar Tejeda made the move to second base last year, and the team was pleased with his performance there, both his defense and of course his breakout offensive year, that resulted in him being named one of the top prospects in the High-A Carolina League as a 20-year-old. The team plans on keeping him at second base for the coming year, rather than experimenting with a shift back to shortstop or third base.

“We really like the transition he made over at second base. We feel like it took a little bit of the pressure off him as opposed to playing on the left side of the diamond,” said Hazen. “He really seemed to thrive doing that.”

Junichi Tazawa, who underwent Tommy John surgery in spring training last year, is throwing in Fort Myers and will likely appear in games this year in spring training, said Hazen. Catcher Adelberto Ibarra is also in Fort Myers, though he is not yet throwing while recovering from labrum surgery.

–Hazen said while he wouldn’t rule out completely the possibility of catcher Ryan Lavarnway starting the year in Triple-A, it is “a longshot” that he would begin 2011 in Pawtucket after having split 2010 in Salem and Portland. While Lavarnway has shown impressive offensive skills in his minor league career, leading all Sox prospects in homers since the start of 2009, and has made defensive strides, Hazen said defense will determine Lavarnway’s future.

“When you get up to the Triple-A level, you need to be able to come up, run the pitching staff, manage the game and make sure that we leave with a win that day and that pitcher has been put in a position to succeed. [Defense] will be a separator for him,” said Hazen. “For any young catcher that comes up, they’€™re going to focus on their offense, they’€™re going to want to get hits just like the other position players do but that’€™s not the emphasis or the importance. And I think a lot of those guys are going to hear that in big league camp this year, how important it’€™s going to be for those younger catchers, if you’€™re going to come up, it’€™s about running the pitching staff and managing the guys that are out there on the mound that day.”

For his part, Lavarnway acknowledged that his need to improve defensively has been an eye-opener:

“My swing has always come really naturally to me, my swing is what I really focused on with my father growing up, and defensively, I didn’€™t really realize how far I had to come,” said Lavarnway. “Realizing that, seeing these guys in the major leagues, and these other catchers in the minors, made me realize how far I had go, and helped me realize the weaknesses I hadn’€™t really noticed in my own game.”

–Hazen offered an update on prospect Ryan Westmoreland. For more on that, click here.

Read More: jose iglesias, junichi tazawa, mike hazen, oscar tejeda
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