January 30, 2011

On Baseball: Red Sox hope to rebuild an era of backstop stability

By Kevin Thomas kthomas@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

Jarrod Saltalamacchia
click image to enlarge

Jarrod Saltalamacchia

Varitek will serve as the mentor and backup. Chances are he will get most of Josh Beckett's starts (if Beckett gets his way), and would likely play against left-handers.

While both catchers are switch-hitters, Saltalamacchia hits right-handers better than left-handers (.273/.206), while Varitek hits lefties better (.279/.259).

THE FUTURE behind home plate at Fenway Park may be in Pawtucket or Portland this year.

Mark Wagner, 26, is entering his third year on the 40-man roster, meaning that he will be out of options after this season.

Defensively sound because of his quickness, Wagner needs to prove himself. After batting .301 for part of the 2009 season, Wagner has struggled in Triple-A.

He batted .214 in 42 games in Pawtucket in 2009, and then .205 in 36 games last year. His season was cut short by a broken hamate bone in his left hand.

Luis Exposito, 24, caught the last 1 1/2 seasons in Portland. He hit .260 last year with 11 home runs and 94 RBI. He should start the year in Triple-A.

Exposito, who was added to the 40-man roster this offseason, has a strong arm and is improving defensively.

Ryan Lavarnway, 23, may be the weakest defensively of the four, but the Red Sox say he is dramatically improving.

Offensively, Lavarnway hit a combined .288 with 22 home runs and 102 RBI in Class A Salem and Portland. Fluke year or start of a stellar career? The spotlight will be on Lavarnway.

Tim Federowicz, 23, appears the most polished defensively, but also has further to come on offense, having slipped to a .253 average in Salem last year.

And if none of those four work out, there is an underdog story brewing in Salem. Dan Butler, 24, was not drafted out of the University of Arizona in 2009. Boston signed him that July.

Last year, Butler hit a combined .315 in low Class-A Greenville and then Salem.

Other prospects will work their way up.

And when a Wagner, Exposito, Lavarnway or Federowicz is ready for the majors, say by 2012, what job will be available?

Will one of them serve as Saltalamacchia's backup or his replacement?

Staff Writer Kevin Thomas can be reached at 791-6411 or at:



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