IL notes: Lavarnway stressing defense

PawSox backstop feels he's close to an 'offensive explosion'

By John Wagner / Special to | May 7, 2012 6:34 AM ET

Last season, Ryan Lavarnway cemented his position as one of Boston's top prospects.

The young catcher belted 34 home runs across three levels and earned a trip to the Major Leagues in just his third full professional season.

"Last season was a whirlwind," Lavarnway said. "I started in Double-A, a place I was familiar with, and got hot. I got to Triple-A sooner than I could have hoped.

"I took what I had learned about myself as a hitter in years past and used it to my advantage to stay hot for a long period of time."

This season, the 24-year-old's numbers are solid but unspectacular. He's hitting .247 with two homers and 23 RBIs in Pawtucket's first 23 games.

But Red Sox manager Arnie Beyeler said he isn't worried that Lavarnway's offensive numbers aren't on pace to match last year's production. The reason Lavarnway, who hit .295 with 18 homers and 55 RBIs in only 61 games with the PawSox a year ago, has slowed offensively is that his workload defensively has increased dramatically in 2012.

"He's learning how to catch five or six days a week," Beyeler explained. "He's a really hard-working kid, so one of the things he's learning is to be 'off' when he gets an off day.

"In the past, he worked harder on the days he wasn't playing. Now he's learning how to gear back and pace himself through the daily rigors of being a catcher. And he has done a great job with that."

Lavarnway admitted that it is an adjustment to catching every day and the former Yale standout said he is happy with the improvements to his defense.

"I'm happy with the way I'm throwing out runners, and I feel I'm blocking and receiving the ball really well," he said. "I've gotten a lot of good feedback from my pitching staff, coaches and umpires."

Defensively, the 6-foot-4, 225-pounder has thrown out 35 percent of would-be basestealers to rank fourth in the league in that category. He also has just one passed ball and has not committed an error in helping PawSox pitchers post a solid 3.48 ERA.

Lavarnway said he's happy with the opportunity to be Pawtucket's everyday backstop.

"Every day, I feel I can have a positive effect on the game," he said. "Even if I don't have any hits in a game, I still know I can have a positive effect on the game.

"I know my first responsibility is to have a positive influence defensively, and anything I add with my bat is a plus."

And the offense? Lavarnway, a career .283 hitter in the Minor Leagues, is confident he will be productive again soon.

"Offensively, I know I'm not quite right yet," he said. "But I'm feeling some things and I feel that I'm getting closer to an offensive explosion."

In brief

MVP again?: Charlotte 1B/DH Dan Johnson has been hot recently, hitting .303 with five homers, 14 RBIs and nine runs scored in his last 10 games. On the season, the 2010 IL MVP with Durham is batting .292 with six homers and 24 RBIs. Johnson ranks fourth in the league in RBIs and is tied for the league lead with 26 walks, one of the big reasons he's second with a .462 on-base percentage.

He said it: "I told [Indianapolis manager Dean Treanor], 'I'm not going anywhere. I'm not coming out.' He said, 'Yeah, you are,' and was pretty serious about it. He said, 'This isn't about today, it's about years from now. We have to protect you and your arm.'" -- Indianapolis LHP Justin Wilson to the Indianapolis Star. Treanor came out to remove Wilson from the April 29 game against Durham, even though Wilson had a no-hitter going through 7 1/3 innings. Jose Diaz recorded the final two outs in the eighth and Doug Slaten set the Bulls down in order in the ninth to finish the Tribe's first no-hitter since RHP Ian Snell turned the trick against Norfolk on May 15, 2005.

He said it, Part II: "I knew there wasn't going to be anything good [on the video of my April 25 start]. I really couldn't pinpoint what happened that day, so I just tried to forget about that one. Besides, usually if it's something mechanical, I feel it vs. seeing it on video." -- Lehigh Valley RHP Scott Elarton to The (Allentown) Morning Call. Elarton surrendered 10 hits and eight runs over 3 2/3 innings in that start against Buffalo but has been impressive the rest of the season, giving up 20 hits and two earned runs over 28 innings. On the season, he's 3-1 with a 2.84 ERA.

John Wagner is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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