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Ryan Lavarnway is still impressing … Bad news for Quiznos, good for the Red Sox

03.14.12 at 11:57 am ET
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Ryan Lavarnway has impressed Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine this spring. (AP)

Bobby Valentine says any time you talk about the Red Sox catching situation, he demands Ryan Lavarnway‘s name be included in the conversation. The manager also passes along that he hasn’t seen a young hitter the likes of Lavarnway — one which understands what he is doing and needs to be done — in quite some time.

In a camp which is being kept buzzing with the potential of such prospects as Will Middlebrooks and Jose Iglesias, it’s the 24-year-old catcher who may be offering the most complete package among the youngsters. It started with a home run in his very first at-bat of the spring, has continued with obvious defensive improvements — (for more on this, see the excellent Minor Details podcast with Alex Speier talking to Lavarnway about his evolution as a catcher) — and, of course, been punctuated by the overall offensive presence, one which resulted in 32 minor league home runs in 2011.

So how did he keep the momentum going?

Work Ethic. Continued maturity. Attention to detail. Acceptance of instruction.

There was another key, however.

“I lost 25 pounds twice this offseason,” he said.

The first wave of weight-dropping came when he became ill while playing in Venezuela. But then, after returning to the United States and regaining the poundage, the real significant transformation started kicking in. While working out at Athletes Performance in Phoenix, Lavarnway discovered the art of eating better. Particularly of note was the understanding of why he had found himself in a bad place weigh-wise at the conclusion of  the ’11 season.

“I definitely needed to lose the weight. I got big at the end of last year,” he said. “I got into a rhythm where I was hitting well where I would eat something that wasn’t great for me. So I was thinking, ‘I have to eat the same thing as I ate yesterday because I hit well yesterday.’”

That “same thing” became a Quiznos “Traditional” sandwich.

“I thought it couldn’t be that bad for me, but looking at the nutritional information afterwards I was eating it for breakfast and it was 1,500 calories,” Lavarnway said.

“I could definitely feel the difference. My body isn’t fighting itself any more. I feel lighter, which helps me on my feet, my flexibility, helps me recover faster. I’ve put on some weight in each season and that’s just the way my body works, but I’m going to try to put on less weight this year.”

There was one last concern upon showing up to camp, however: would the power still be there if the additional weight wasn’t? Well, thanks to that first at-bat, in a ‘B’ Game over at Hammond Stadium against the Twins, that question appears to be answered.

“It was definitely nice,” he said. “One of the few worries I had when I did lose all that weight was wondering if any of the pop was going to go with it. It was nice to know that I didn’t even get all of that ball and it still got out. It’s nice to know I can be leaner and physically have less body mass and still hit with power.”

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