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Red Sox minor league roundup: Allen Webster gets grounded; Salem makes history; puzzling outing for Brian Johnson 04.09.14 at 11:05 am ET
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Right-hander Allen Webster induced 10 groundball outs on Tuesday. (AP)

Right-hander Allen Webster induced 10 groundball outs on Tuesday. (AP)

A brief look at the action in the Red Sox farm system on Tuesday:

TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 7-1 WIN VS. SYRACUSE (NATIONALS)

(BOX)

– Right-hander Allen Webster threw strikes and showed a strong two-seamer over the course of six efficient innings in which he threw 54 of 83 pitches (65 percent) for strikes. Though Webster punched out just three batters (while walking two), he allowed just three hits (a double and two singles) while eliciting 10 groundball outs.

“My fastball command was 10 times better than where it was the last game. I was throwing my off-speed for strikes and they were getting bad contact,” Webster told Brendan McGair of the Pawtucket Times. “I was staying more in line and driving the ball to the spot rather than jerking it.”

Ryan Lavarnway, who had been 0-for-14 in his first four starts of the year, made his first hit of 2014 a resounding one, launching a solo homer to the opposite field in right. Lavarnway once again played first base, making his third start at that position (compared to one each at DH and catcher). Read the rest of this entry »

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Marlins reportedly upset with Red Sox over subpar lineup 03.07.14 at 8:53 am ET
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Jarrod Saltalamacchia was the most high-profile 2013 World Series champion playing during the Red Sox-Marlins Grapefruit League game Thursday. The problem with that? He was playing for Miami.

According to the Sun Sentinel, Marlins executives were “outraged” that the Red Sox sent a lineup that included just two players with more than one major league plate appearance. Those players were Jackie Bradley Jr. and Ryan Lavarnway.

Thursday’€™s game was considered a “super premium” ticket, meaning that fans paid between $10 and $12 more for tickets than they would during a normal weekday game. It is the only time during spring training that fans attending a Marlins home game will pay the higher price.

MLB guidelines state that during spring training a team needs to field “a minimum of four players who are regulars on the previous year’€™s major league team or who were platooned on the previous year’€™s major league team on a regular basis, or who have a reasonable chance to be regulars on the major league club’€™s squad during the upcoming season. Each of those regulars, excluding pitchers, must play a minimum of three complete innings.”

According to Boston Herald Red Sox reporter Scott Lauber, while the Marlins will not file a grievance with the league, Joe Torre, MLB’s executive vice president of baseball operations, will look into Boston’s lineup.

The Sox and the Marlins played to a 0-0 tie in the rain-shortened game.

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Ryan Lavarnway embraces spring of change 02.14.14 at 5:00 pm ET
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Ryan Lavarnway is using a new bat this year. (AP)

Ryan Lavarnway is using a new bat this year. (AP)

FORT MYERS, Fla. — For Ryan Lavarnway, change isn’t just limited to a new position.

While the 26-year-old is getting a tutorial at first base from Red Sox third base coach and infield instructor Brian Butterfield, he’s also wielding a modified weapon in the batter’s box in hopes of reclaiming some of his offensive prowess. In 2011, Lavarnway emerged as one of the Sox’ top prospects based on the potential power he could bring to a position (catcher) where offense is a scarce and hence valued commodity. He slammed 34 homers between Double-A, Triple-A and the big leagues, suggesting a future middle-of-the-order bat who could handle the responsibilities of catching.

But over the 2012 and 2013 seasons, he hit just 14 homers while shuttling between Triple-A and the majors in the two combined seasons. Though he still showed the ability to hit for average and get on base in Triple-A (in both 2012 and 2013) and the big leagues (in 2013 after struggling at that level in 2012), he saw his slugging percentage plummet in the minors from .563 in 2011 to .439 in 2012 to .350 in 2013.

While his ability to add first base to his resume could open pathways to the big leagues, that facet of his game pales in significance next to his ability to restore his status as a power hitting prospect. Mindful of that, Lavarnway has changed his lumber for this spring. Read the rest of this entry »

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Ryan Lavarnway gets his introduction to first base at 12:14 pm ET
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Ryan Lavarnway is working at first base this spring. (WEEI.com)

Ryan Lavarnway is working at first base this spring. (WEEI.com)

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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Ryan Lavarnway on playing first base: ‘We’re going to give it a try’ 02.05.14 at 10:51 am ET
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Ryan Lavarnway

Ryan Lavarnway

Appearing on The Bradford Files podcast, Ryan Lavarnway explained the thought process that went into having the 26-year-old catcher learn how to play first base during the Red Sox‘ upcoming spring training. To listen to the interview, click here.

“There was a conversation I had with John Farrell over the phone,” Lavarnway said. “Before this year we were always really conscious of catching needing to be the priority. I needed to improve, I needed to continue to get reps. I think that everyone in the organization was very pleased with the improvements that I made, and beyond improvements the way that I played. So now it’€™s about finding more at-bats for me, trying to get me in the lineup and that’€™s the way it was expressed to me through John.

“We’€™re going to give it a try. I’€™ve never played first base before. We’€™re going to throw it against the wall and see if it sticks. It could be great, and it could not work. We’€™re just not sure. I’€™m looking at it as an exciting new challenge, an exciting new opportunity and any way I can find to make myself more valuable to the team as a player I look at as a positive.”

Lavarnway, who is working out in the Denver area after having just been married shortly after the World Series, explained he won’€™t dive life as a first baseman until arriving at spring training.

“That was a conversation we had in the last week. I ordered a first baseman’€™s mitt immediately but I haven’€™t received it yet. The idea is to get own to spring training early, try to learn from Brian Butterfield, who is the best in the business, and go from there,’€ he said. ‘€œI’€™ve never done it before so I wouldn’€™t know where to start on my own. But Butterfield taught [Daniel] Nava how to play first base in a matter of two months last year in spring training so I figure if there is anybody who can do it, he’€™s the guy.

“I’€™m going in as a catcher first, still. I’€™m a catcher. But we’€™re going to try and add first baseman as a secondary position for me.”

Lavarnway played in 25 major league games in 2013, hitting .299 with a .758 OPS and one home run. During his time with Triple-A Pawtucket, the backstop saw action in 50 games, hitting .250 with a .696 OPS and three homers in 214 plate appearances.

The Red Sox will go into camp with veterans David Ross and A.J. Pierzynski slated as their catching combination, with Lavarnway, Dan Butler and Christian Vazquez residing next in line.

“At the end of the day how you play dictates everything in the game,” Lavarnway said. “Every opportunity that you earn or that’€™s afforded you is a direct reflection of how the way that you’€™ve played. I need to continue to improve every day the way Jason Varitek taught me he did. Even in his final season he was asking me my views and my opinions because he still thought he could learn and he could get better. That’€™s something I took serious, that he was always trying to get better even though he was considered the best in the game. I’m always going to try and get better and I’€™m never going to be satisfied.”

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Red Sox minor league year in review: Catchers 09.24.13 at 4:17 pm ET
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As the major league season wraps up, WEEI.com will also wrap up its minor league coverage of the 2013 campaign by looking at the depth of prospects at the different position groupings in the farm system. Today: Catchers.

Catcher Blake Swihart was named Red Sox Defensive Player of the Year in 2013. (Darrell Snow/Greenville Drive)

Catcher Blake Swihart was named Red Sox Defensive Player of the Year in 2013. (Darrell Snow/Greenville Drive)

Overview: Overall, the minor league catching landscape is bleak. That is not the case, however, in the Red Sox system, where there are four players who will open next year in Double-A or above who either have big league futures or who have already played at the game’s highest level. Though it seemed reasonable to expect that the Sox might trade a catcher once they signed David Ross last offseason, the elected not to do so, resulting in an area where the Sox run deep.

Interestingly, however, there is no player who is under team control for 2014 who seems like an ideal candidate to assume starting/primary catching duties should Jarrod Saltalamacchia leave as a free agent. The team does not seem ready to entrust Ryan Lavarnway with primary catching duties (Saltalamacchia’s role, in fact, grew when Lavarnway was called up to fill in for Ross when he landed on the DL), while Ross is likely to remain a defense-first backup with pop. The fact that Dan Butler did not receive a September call-up underscores the view that he’s a depth option rather than a starter-in-waiting, while Christian Vazquez and Blake Swihart have starting catcher potential but won’t be ready for the big leagues in 2014.

In other words, there’s a strong chance that even though the Sox are one of the only organizations that can boast multiple catching prospects who project to be above-average everyday options at their positions, the team will want to prioritize bringing back Saltalamacchia (who came into his own as the leader of the pitching staff while also producing his best, most consistent offensive season) or will have to dip into free agent waters to find a starter.  

Ryan Lavarnway (age 25 season in 2013)

Majors: 23 games, .311/.342/.446, 1 HR, 2 walks, 17 strikeouts, 19 percent caught stealing

Triple-A: 50 games, .250/.346/.350, 3 HR, 25 walks, 25 strikeouts, 40 percent caught stealing

Big league ETA: Already there. On the 40-man roster. One option left.

Notes: Lavarnway continued to exhibit excellent plate discipline in Triple-A, though that skill didn’t translate perfectly in his sporadic big league duty (witness the two walks and 17 strikeouts, and the disappearance of his power remains a puzzle to evaluators both inside and outside the Red Sox organization. He’s made considerable defensive strides during his pro career, to the point where a team might be comfortable with featuring him behind the plate if he were still a 30-homer threat. In the absence of power, however, his fit is less clear, a notion underscored by the fact that he’s gotten minimal playing time since Ross’ activation. For now, members of the Sox rotation still appear more comfortable working with Saltalamacchia and Ross. Pitch selection with Lavarnway behind the plate often requires more negotiation, which takes the form of shaking to different pitches or mound visits. Still, while some of Lavarnway’s limitations have been easier to spot in part time duty, the fact is that a) he’s in the big leagues and b) he’s shown the ability to have a solid offensive approach at that level despite sporadic playing time. And, given that he does have a 30-homer season under his belt, and that he’s made improvements in his career behind the plate, there’s meaningful upside. In other words, he’s at a stage in his career where a team might well try to buy low. Read the rest of this entry »

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Red Sox notes: John Farrell on potential Yankees retaliation for A-Rod; no word on who leaves rotation; shifting roles for Allen Webster, Brandon Workman 09.05.13 at 6:59 pm ET
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Alex Rodriguez and the Yankees will face the Red Sox for the first time since August 18. (AP)

Alex Rodriguez and the Yankees will face the Red Sox for the first time since August 18. (AP)

NEW YORK — With the Red Sox and Yankees primed to meet on Thursday for the first time since Ryan Dempster hit Alex Rodriguez with a pitch at Fenway Park on August 18, the question of whether or not the Yankees might retaliate and drill a member of the Red Sox has become a prominent topic in New York. As of Thursday afternoon, however, Sox manager John Farrell said that there had been no conversation with the Sox by either league officials or umpires about the possibility of the two sides being in a state of high alert.

“We haven’t heard anything to date leading into the series. If something is said at home plate, we’ll find that out right prior to gametime,” Farrell said about two hours before the scheduled first pitch. “But no, there’s been nothing said to our players or our team with the potential of what you just outlined.” 

But what if the Yankees do appear to drill a member of the Red Sox intentionally? The manager’s response was intentionally vague.

“If there is to be retaliation, I don’t think there will be … but you never know,” said Farrell. “This game will find a way to take care of itself. If that’s to be the case, we’ll play the game.”

Dempster will not be pitching in this series. In a conversation with a group of reporters, the veteran didn’t have much to say about the incident or it’s aftermath.

“We’re talking about a start a long time ago. You’re going to have games where you don’t pitch as well as you want to and that was the case in that game. I feel like I’ve been throwing the ball better so I’m just going to continue to try to build off of that,” said Dempster. “I’ve just been going about my work and getting ready for my next start after my next start and just trying to be as prepared as I can and just pitch better. That’s been my main goal.”

Of course, the precise date of Dempster’s start is in some question. With Clay Buchholz making what is expected to be his final start of his rehab assignment in Pawtucket on Thursday, and in position to return as soon as Tuesday in Tampa Bay on normal (four days’ rest), Dempster faces the possibility of being squeezed out of the rotation. Farrell acknowledged that someone would have to leave the rotation to accommodate the return of the 2013 All-Star, but said that a final decision hadn’t been made about who would be moved out of a starting role. Read the rest of this entry »

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