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Saturday, December 1, 2012
Lavarnway unfazed by uncertain future

By Gordon Edes

BOSTON -- As part of his offseason training, Red Sox catcher Ryan Lavarnway said he will soon be working out at an outdoor stadium 9,000 feet above sea level in Red Rock, Colo. That's part of the program at Viking Power Fitness, where Lavarnway, who now lives in Denver, works under the tutelage of one rock-solid specimen by the name of Oyvind Gulbrandsen.

"I promise I'll be faster," Lavarnway, one of the slowest players in baseball, said with a smile. "My legs will be stronger."

Ryan Lavarnway
The clock is ticking for Ryan Lavarnway to prove his worth as a big leaguer.
What remains to be seen, of course, is just where Lavarnway will be doing his running once baseball season begins. The Red Sox traded for a backup catcher, David Ross, creating uncertainty about Lavarnway's role. He has an option left, so he could return to Triple-A Pawtucket. Or he could be a trading chip at this week's winter meetings in Nashville.

"I haven't talked to anyone about it," he said Saturday at the team's "Christmas at Fenway" event. "You never know what's going to happen. The final roster is so far away, you don't know what will happen.

"I have no control over it at all at this point, so I don't think about it."

Lavarnway spoke highly of Ross. "Great player," he said. "He brings a very high level of character to our clubhouse. They obviously think he can help us. If he can help us, I'm glad to have him."

Lavarnway caught 105 games in 2012, the most he has caught in a single season as a pro. Twenty-five of those games came with the Red Sox, who had told him last spring that the plan was for him to catch at least 100 games. He said he cut down on the amount of weight work he did with his lower body. In hindsight, he said, that might have been a mistake, because the strength of his legs suffered.

Now that he knows his body can handle the workload, he plans to increase his lower bodywork, under Gulbrandsen's direction.

Wearing down may have been a factor in Lavarnway's poor performance at the plate. In 46 games with the Sox, he batted just .157, with 2 home runs in 166 plate appearances.

"I wasn't good, I wasn't myself," he said. "I'm better than that; I know it. I've got to show it. The way I hit is balance between being aggressive and being patient. [My balance] was off. My approach, mentally and physically, it's all balance. Physically, it's the way my momentum in my body [goes], the way my hips turn, the way I lean, the way my hands go. It's all balance. I need to be more balanced."

The possibility has been raised that the Sox might consider moving Lavarnway to first base, though manager John Farrell said that has not been discussed and Lavarnway said he has not been approached about a position change.

Lavarnway, 25, said he believes he is a big leaguer, but that is for GM Ben Cherington to decide.

"I'm not a talent scout," he said. "I feel prepared. I trust Ben. Whatever he feels I need to do, I'll do.

"There's a difference between playing well in Triple-A and [being] ready to play in the majors. I feel ready to make the transition. Ben is in charge. I respect his decision."

Lavarnway sat down with Cherington for an exit interview at the end of the season. "Ben said I was part of the plan, [but] I needed to finish taking that last step to be a big leaguer, not necessarily by playing but by knowing."