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Ryan Lavarnway gets his introduction to first base

02.14.14 at 12:14 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — After spending the entirety of his professional career catching in the Red Sox system, Ryan Lavarnway is getting his introduction to a new position this spring. The 26-year-old worked today with Red Sox infield guru Brian Butterfield at first base. Butterfield had tremendous success last spring working with both Mike Napoli (who had played first base on a part-time basis prior to 2013) and Daniel Nava (who had never played the position at all) last year in Fort Myers. This year, if Lavarnway — who is considered by evaluators to be defensively adequate for consideration as at least a backup behind the plate — can add first base to his skill set, it could open up playing time for him both in Triple-A (where the Sox also have catchers Christian Vazquez and Dan Butler on the anticipated roster, and on the 40-man roster, but are thin at first base) and potentially the majors.

If, for instance, Mike Napoli gets injured at some point, the Sox would want to have a right-handed first baseman to complement Mike Carp and/or Daniel Nava at the position. If Lavarnway gains comfort at first base, he could emerge at that option. While much is made of the 2008 fifth-rounder’s diminished power in the last two years, it is worth noting that he still offered solid offensive production as a backup catcher for the Sox last year, hitting .299/.329/.429 with a homer and seven doubles in 82 plate appearances. As a player on the 40-man roster, Lavarnway could have a leg up on another option such as Brandon Snyder if the Sox need a right-handed first baseman — assuming that his transition to the position goes well. And, given that Lavarnway is in his final year with options, the idea of finding him more potential pathways to the big leagues through positions other than catcher and DH carries particular significance at this stage of his career.

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