Monday June 13, 2011 | 06:52 AM

The Red Sox traded Pawtucket catcher Mike McKenry to the Pittsburgh Pirates for a player to be named later or cash.

McKenry, 26, was acquired from Colorado late in spring training as insurance. Beyond Jason Varitek and Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Boston had no catchers with major league experience. Mark Wagner was being taken off the 40-man roster, and Luis Exposito had not played above Double-A.

Now, Boston is comfortable with its catching tandem in the majors, and Exposito has been called up once to the majors (although he did not play), so it seems he is the new No. 3 catcher, for now.

Also, McKenry's trade leaves a spot on the 40-man roster, which will be needed when Junichi Tazawa is activated from the 60-day DL.

So, which catcher gets called up to Pawtucket?

There are 3 candidates.

Wagner, 27, has been in limbo since being designated for assignment, first in extended spring training and currently in Class A Salem. He has the experience for Triple-A, but does he fit into Boston's future? Unlikely. He could go to Portland or stay in Salem (if Dan Butler gets a call to Portland).

Tim Federowicz, 23, is considered the best defensive catcher in the Red Sox system, and he is doing well in his first season in Double-A, batting .283, with five home runs and a .746 OPS. But he has had only 212 Double-A at-bats and the Red Sox might want him to gain more experience in Portland before moving up.

Ryan Lavarnway, 23, was promoted to Portland late last year and batted .285 with nine home runs in 158 at-bats. His defense has always been a question mark but he continues to show improvement.

This year, Lavarnway's defense is better, and he is hot again with the bat. In his last 23 games, he is batting .365 (31-for-85) with 8 home runs and 19 RBI. For the season, he is batting .284 with 14 home runs and an .870 OPS.

Lavarnway is also batting .318 against left-handers. The Red Sox may want a big right-handed bat off the bench later in the year. The guess here is that Lavarnway gets the call.

About this Blog

Kevin Thomas covers baseball and basketball for the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram. He wisely moved to Maine in 1994 after working for the St. Petersburg Times. He is married to Nancy and they have nine children.

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