August 22, 2010

On Baseball: The catcher from Yale is a lock to improve

By Kevin Thomas
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

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Ryan Lavarnway made an immediate impression when he was promoted to the Portland Sea Dogs last month, then cooled off, but he expects to improve.

John Ewing/Staff Photographer

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Ryan Lavarnway, who also played outfield in high school and college, has been working on his defense with the Sea Dogs. The Red Sox performed a makeover on his mechanics.

John Ewing/Staff Photographer

"I didn't really know how far I had to go," he said. "I think it was eye-opening and motivational."

The Red Sox performed a makeover on Lavarnway's mechanics.

"He worked on getting set up in more of an athletic position," Epperson said. "That has cleaned up a lot of the stiffness in all aspects of his catching, from blocking to throwing to receiving.

"It took him some time. You have to realize this guy has caught one way for a long time. To change and be productive is a challenge. And he took it and he worked on it.

"When he saw success and he felt comfortable, I think that's when he took off with it."

Epperson said Lavarnway has a strong arm that will just get stronger as he learns to use his legs.

The speed of his throws to second base "are above average for a major-league catcher right now," Epperson said.

The Red Sox aren't the only ones noticing Lavarnway's improvement.

Before the season, prospect-rating groups like Baseball America and the website had Lavarnway down the list on the catching depth chart.

Baseball America doesn't update its list during the season, but now lists Lavarnway as Boston's top catching prospect (although the website isn't convinced of Lavarnway's defense, calling him a catcher/designated hitter).

The other catchers are hardly being cast aside, although Brown is out of minor-league options next year. He'll contend for a backup job in Boston or find another team.

Wagner, coming off surgery because of a broken hand, will be back in Pawtucket next year. Exposito, the Sea Dogs' RBI leader, is expected to join him in Triple-A. Federowicz is expected in Portland next season.

Lavarnway is no lock to keep moving up, but he's showing the right makeup in how he approaches the game, and the challenges it brings.

"Great kid," Epperson said. "This guy loves the game of baseball. Loves where he's at right now.

"When you get a combination of a guy who is very confident, very comfortable and intelligent, success is right around the corner."

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


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