Red Sox unlikely to shift Lavarnway to first base
Saltalamacchia, free-agent signee Ross also in the mix at catcher for Boston
BOSTON -- Ryan Lavarnway wants to stay a catcher, and the Red Sox want to keep him there. So any idea of moving him to first base to allow the team to carry him, Jarrod Saltalamacchia and new addition David Ross into the season is out, for now.
That brings back the logical belief that eventually either Saltalamacchia or Lavarnway will be traded.
"I have no comment, I don't know," Lavarnway said Saturday at Fenway Park about the apparent logjam. "I haven't talked to anyone about it, you never know what's going to happen as far as Winter Meetings. The final roster is still so far away, you don't know what's going to happen.
"I have no control over it at all at this point, so I don't think about it."
Saltalamacchia said he envisions himself working with Ross, but that he hasn't put thought into the other hypotheticals about his future.
"That's not my expertise," Saltalamacchia said Saturday. "I don't think too much into it. I've been in situations before where things can happen and I understand it. But I look at it as an opportunity for me and David to work together, to be honest with you."
Shortly after Ross signed a two-year deal with the Sox, he said his understanding of the plan for the team's catching duties would be a split with him and someone else. He just wasn't sure who that someone else would be.
"I think maybe playing a little more than a backup and splitting time with one of the guys they have there," Ross said in an interview on MLB Network Radio. "I don't know whether it's going to be Salty or Lavarnway. I think they're sorting that out now, I don't know who it's going to be."
Both Lavarnway and Saltalamacchia have trade value. Saltalamacchia, 27, hit a career-high 25 home runs last season.
Lavarnway, meanwhile, is still under team control for a long time, although he's struggled at the plate in the Majors. But he does have a track record of Minor League success. The 25-year-old hit a combined 32 home runs between Double-A and Triple-A in 2011, not counting the two big league homers he had after a callup near the end of the season.
Lavarnway was asked to catch 108 games last season, and he acknowledged that it took a physical toll. He's still learning how to best condition his body, working out in Colorado -- he lives there now -- at an outfit called Viking Power Fitness with trainer Oyvind Gulbrandsen.
"He's awesome," Lavarnway said. "Sounds a little bit like Arnold Schwarzenegger when he's training me. He's great, he's got a great energy about him ... he's got the baseball structure of the workout and then he kicks my butt on top of that."
In 209 plate appearances in the Majors, Lavarnway has a .172 average. He said he knows he's a better hitter than that and knows he needs to show it. Nonetheless, he feels he's ready to be up top.
"I think there's a difference between playing well in Triple-A and being ready for the Majors," Lavarnway said. "And I feel I'm ready to make the transition, but again [general manager Ben Cherington] is in charge and I respect his decisions."
Lavarnway said he has received praise for the strides he's made on defense. That's not just from Sox personnel, but also from umpires who appreciate getting a good look at pitches. Lavarnway said too that at the end of the season, Cherington told him he was a part of the team's plans.
Both Lavarnway and Saltalamacchia know Ross is lauded for his catching ability and his clubhouse presence. Saltalamacchia went as far as to compare Ross to Sox royalty, Jason Varitek.
"I talked to [Braves catcher Brian McCann] a lot about him, and he loved him," Saltalamacchia said. "I'm excited to work with him. He brings that veteran presence with the pitching staff, with the guys on the team. It's a great guy to have.
"I've talked to [manager John Farrell] a couple times in the offseason. I haven't talked to Ben. Farrell told me he thinks this is a guy that complements me well. We can work together and he brings that veteran leadership where we can sit back and talk and get back to the basics of the game."
In explaining why moving Lavarnway out from catcher to first base would be a difficult decision, Farrell referenced a former Sox favorite, Victor Martinez, and one of the Sox's free-agent targets, Mike Napoli. Napoli can catch, but he also can play first base.
"We haven't had those discussions [about a move] because there's so much focus and emphasis on his development as a catcher," Farrell said Saturday. "You start to look at what his numbers would be at a position of power or maybe more offensive production, and does it become less than league average? So when you start to put the whole team together, where does that production really stand out? It's some of what Victor Martinez went through his entire career, it's what Mike Napoli's going through right now. You see it quite frequently, actually."
Until the Sox land a primary first baseman or come up with another plan at first base or make clear they're catching plans, Saltalamacchia and Lavarnway remain up in the air. The bottom line for both of the incumbent backstops is that worrying about matters out of their hands is fruitless.
"I've been through it before," Saltalamacchia said. "You can't control what happens in this league. You've got to go out and play hard. Obviously I would love nothing more than to stay here and go out to battle with these guys that I battled with all year last year and the year prior. I'm not going to read into it. I'm just going to get ready and prepare like I normally would."