Rizzo, Lavarnway honored with awards

BOSTON -- The Boston Red Sox awarded their 2010 minor league awards and honored the recipients prior to Saturday’s 4-3 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays at Fenway Park.

Among the seven winners were Anthony Rizzo and Ryan Lavarnway, who were co-winners as Offensive Player of the Year.

Rizzo, 21, hit .260 with 42 doubles, 25 homers and 100 RBIs in 136 games this season between Class A Salem and Double-A Portland.

“It’s a tremendous honor,” Rizzo said. “[Ryan] Kalish won it last year, Lars [Anderson] has won it and [Clay] Buchholz has won it. It’s a great honor.

“Now that it’s over, it’s good to reflect [on my season]. I’m mentally shut off and get to enjoy everything, enjoy the season. Looking back, I learned a lot this year about myself and about the game and about adjusting to the higher levels. I feel like I had a pretty good year, development-wise. I learned about the highs and lows.”

The Red Sox selected the left-handed-hitting first baseman with the seventh pick (204th overall) in the 2007 draft, and he made his professional debut for the Gulf Coast League Red Sox that year.

His life and career were derailed in 2008 when he was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s disease and was limited to only 21 games for Class A Greenville. Rizzo beat the disease and returned strong in 2009 to post a .297 average with 14 homers and 66 RBIs.

Given what he’s been through with his health, this latest honor means a lot.

“To my family, it means a lot,” Rizzo said. “They helped me through everything. For the Red Sox, they helped me through everything, as well. They were tremendous.

"There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t remember what I had to go through. A certain situation will come up and I’ll just get nauseous out of nowhere; and it’s great to have this award.”

Lavarnway, 23, batted .288 with 27 doubles, 22 homers, 70 walks and 102 RBIs in 126 games between Salem and Portland. He led Boston’s minor league system in RBIs and ranked second in homers.

“It’s great -- and to be able to have my family here and to see the look in my mother’s eyes when they called us out onto the field and I got to shake Theo’s hand and Tito’s,” Lavarnway said of receiving the award.

The Red Sox selected the 6-foot-4, 225-pound catcher as their eighth pick (202nd overall) in the 2008 draft. He has shown he can be an offensive threat.

Lavarnway will participate in the Arizona Fall League.

“The season was kind of a whirlwind; I didn’t know what to expect going in,” he said. “My main focus this year was a lot of defensive improvement. I think I made a lot of good strides and my offensive kicked in naturally. I’ll continue to try to improve on my defense because ultimately I want to be up here.”