Boston Red Sox: Ryan Lavarnway

Red Sox call up Lavarnway

May, 26, 2014
The Red Sox on Monday called up first baseman/catcher Ryan Lavarnway and optioned reliever Alex Wilson back to Triple-A Pawtucket.

Lavarnway, who has played 26 games at first base and 10 at catcher this season with Pawtucket, gives the Red Sox a right-handed bat off the bench and also depth at first base with Mike Napoli on the disabled list. David Ortiz is starting at first base for the Red Sox in Monday’s game in Atlanta against the Braves.

Wilson pitched a scoreless inning in Sunday’s loss, the 10th straight for the Red Sox, but his stay was never intended to be a long one.

The 26-year-old Lavarnway was hitting .265 with two homers and 11 RBIs in 44 games for Pawtucket this season.

Sox send Britton, Lavarnway to Pawtucket

March, 28, 2014
The Boston Red Sox optioned catcher Ryan Lavarnway and left-handed pitcher Drake Britton to Triple-A Pawtucket after Friday's 4-0 win over the Minnesota Twins at Hammond Stadium in Fort Myers, Fla.

Thirty players now remain in big league camp: 25 from the 40-man roster, plus 5 non-roster invites.

On Thursday the Red Sox placed two players, LHP Craig Breslow and RHP Steven Wright, on the 15-day disabled list (both retroactive to March 21).
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Takeaways from the Fort, where Grady Sizemore lost his footing on the warning track of Hammond Stadium and lived to tell about it, A.J. Pierzynski went back to his baseball roots and was booed, Allen Webster had a bumpy first ride, and Drake Britton made a strong case for the Mohawk to be this year's Red Sox fashion statement, though his disciples have yet to surface.

The details:

The result: The Sox fell to the Twins for the second straight game, this time by a 6-2 score in Hammond Stadium before a crowd of 8,547, a record for this part of town. The Twins have added hundreds of seats in the first phase of a $48.5 million renovation, the money ponied up by Lee County, the same folks who are on the hook for the construction of the $78 million JetBlue Park. Can't be having the Twins feeling left out, now can we?

[+] EnlargeDaniel Nava
AP Photo/Steven SenneDaniel Nava blasted a home run in his first right-handed at-bat of the spring.
The long balls: Daniel Nava, in his first swing from the right side against a pitcher this spring, hit a home run to left field off Twins lefty Scott Diamond. Nava had not participated in batting practice sessions against Sox pitchers because of a pinched nerve in his neck.

Chris Parmalee hit a three-run home run for the Twins off nonroster pitcher Jose Mijares, a Venezuelan who at 5-foot-11 and a listed 265 pounds is reminiscent of a left-handed version of El Guapo, Rich Garces, who pitched for both the Twins and Sox. Mijares was lit up for four hits and three runs in two-thirds of an inning.

The day's major development: That came from the Twins' side, where the club announced that one of the game's top prospects, 20-year-old third baseman Miguel Sano, will require season-ending Tommy John surgery on his throwing elbow.

Sox highlight No 1: That would be the two innings turned in by left-hander Drake Britton, who struck out four of the first five batters he faced before giving up a two-out double to Eduardo Escobar.

"He was great," said Pierzynski, who was catching him for the first time. "Obviously, the results speak for themselves. He hung the one slider to Escobar for the double. Other than that, he struck out the side in the first inning. It was good for him to give up the hit and have to bounce back in a situation where he couldn't give up a run. But he threw the ball great. He threw the ball inside, outside, threw sliders, some changeups, pretty much had it all going."

Manager John Farrell was no less impressed. "He was crisp, he was powerful," he said. "I think one of the more impressive things was his ability to throw the ball in to right-handers. He had an assortment of secondary pitches, the breaking ball and changeup, he also threw for strikes. Just a very good and clean two innings of work today."

Britton said he's been working hard on refining his mechanics -- "staying back over the rubber, not rushing out front, just letting my arm work to get my foot down and to get extension out front."

He's in a much better place than he was at this time last year, when he blew a chance to attend what would have been his first big league camp with an arrest on charges of driving at excessive speeds (111 mph in a 45 mph zone) and driving under the influence. The DUI eventually was reduced to a misdemeanor reckless-driving charge. Last November, Britton pleaded no contest to one reckless-driving charge and also was found guilty of reckless driving that caused damage to property, according to Lee County Criminal Court records. The court placed restrictions on his driver's license, fined him $1,100, required him to perform community service and required him to attend DUI school.

But after the Sox had sent Britton back down to minor league camp and had him enroll in an employee assistance program, the pitcher expressed public remorse for his actions. He made great strides in putting his career back on track, culminating with his promotion to the big leagues last July. He made 18 appearances, all in relief, and did not allow a run in his first seven appearances.

He comes into camp competing for a spot as the third left-hander in the bullpen, though newly acquired Chris Capuano could prove a formidable competitor. Saturday's outing was a great opening statement.

[+] EnlargeGrady Sizemore
AP Photo/Steven SenneGrady Sizemore wasn't happy after striking out in the third inning, but he was pleased to "feel good, and feel strong" after the game.
Sox highlight No. 2: Sizemore, making his first Grapefruit League start, led off and played center field, collecting a ground ball single in three at-bats. He slipped on the track in left-center while chasing Brian Dozier's double and bounced off the fence but quickly recovered and threw the ball into the infield.

"Recognizing that he had to pivot and torque on the leg, but he came out of it fine," Farrell said. "No issues. It was good to see him get three at-bats and continue to build."

Sizemore will not play again until Tuesday, Farrell said, and will receive another three or four days off after that as the Sox proceed cautiously in increasing his workload.

"I felt good today," Sizemore said. "Everything felt good. As much as I could hope for as far as my body and knees and everything. I'm happy just to get through these games and feel good and feel strong, and not come in the next day with any lingering issues. So far, it's been good."

Pierzynski, who played regularly against Sizemore in the AL Central when he was with the White Sox and Sizemore was with the Indians, is encouraged by the early returns.

"From what I've seen, he's fine," he said. "He's always been one of my favorite guys to be around, he always has a smile on his face, I always loved to watch him play because he's an amazing player. He seems fine physically. Everything I've seen -- the way he swings the bat and moves around, he looks good to me, like the old Grady Sizemore. If he's healthy, he's going to help."

Is he beyond the point of being a long shot to make the club?

"You'd have to ask someone smarter than me," Pierzynski said. "I don't know his medical records, [but] from what I've seen, he's doing everything. He looks like he's moving around well, looks like he's running well, he's swinging the bat. I mean, he looks like a normal Grady Sizemore. I don't know any different. I've asked him a couple of times and he says he feels great. I don't see any limp. He looks like a normal player."

The work in progress: Rookie right-hander Allen Webster made seven starts for the Sox last season. He gave up first-inning runs in four of them: an unearned run to the Royals in his first start, four to the Twins and four to the Tigers in his next two starts, and two against the Mariners in his next-to-last start. The Red Sox, sensing a pattern, had Webster simulate an inning in the pen before taking the mound for his first spring start Saturday. It didn't help, as Webster gave up three runs on four well-hit balls: two doubles, a single and a sacrifice fly. He also walked a man and hit a batter.

The second inning went much better. He got a lineout and struck out Aaron Hicks before giving up a two-out hit to Dozier, who had doubled and scored in the first. Webster was lifted at that point.

"I got a little anxious, left a few balls up and they made good contact," he said.

Pierzynski, who also was catching Webster for the first time, also said he missed up in the first inning but mixed in some two-seamers in the second with much better results.

"I hope Webby takes the second inning and works off that," he said. "Because that's the Webby that I've heard about, and that's the Webby people will be talking about for a long time."

[+] EnlargeBrian Dozierin, A.J. Pierzynski
AP Photo/Steven SenneA.J. Pierzynski found the fun in receiving a little razzing from fans.
The boos: Spring training makes for mellow crowds as a rule, but that didn't keep Pierzynski from hearing some boos when he stepped into the box for the first time Saturday, even though he began his career with the Twins. Pierzynski, of course, doffed his cap.

"I expect nothing less," he said of the reception. "Funny moments. It was good."

The project: Catcher Ryan Lavarnway saw his first action at first base, entering the game in the sixth inning. He handled the only ball hit to him, a slow roller. Farrell said he will likely play there again this week in Jupiter, where the Sox have games against the Cardinals and Marlins.

The bulletin-board material: Pierzynski was asked about Johnny Manziel, the Texas A&M football star who has a marketing agreement with Fenway Sports Management and made an appearance in Sox camp this weekend. He said they'd met last year when Pierzynski was with the Rangers, so he just said hello and wished Manziel luck.

"Obviously, he's a great player," Pierzynski said. "Me being an SEC guy [Florida Gators fan], him being an SEC guy, I root for those guys. I know I liked watching him play. I liked the way he played because he was an amazing player.

"I think he'll do good if given the right opportunity. He should be a heckuva NFL player. Maybe he could come and take over for Tom Brady."

Whoa. Stop the presses?

"I'm joking. I'm joking. I'm joking," Pierzynski said amid the laughter. "Joking. Anyone forgets that I was joking, I'll sue for slander."

The Mohawk: Britton came into camp with a much more extreme version of the Mohawk he sported last season. Could that replace the beards?

"I don't know if people are into it," he said with a smile. "If everyone is, I'm down with it."

The submariner: Shunsuke Watanabe pitched a scoreless eighth, striking out one. He topped out at 76 miles an hour. Watanabe had Twins manager Ron Gardenhire reminiscing about Pete Delkus, a pitcher he had in Class A ball in Kenosha, Wis., in his first year of managing.

"[He] threw 79 miles an hour, tops," Gardenhire told reporters. "He was my closer in Kenosha. He did not give up an earned run until, like, Aug. 11. And he ended up only giving up [two] for the year. He was my closer with [33] saves.

"Seventy-nine miles an hour with a little lollipop slider -- just like that. And when [Watanabe] was throwing, I'm going, 'I've seen that before.' [Delkus] made it all the way to Triple-A before they started whacking him, and now he's a newscaster; he does the weather. He did the weather in Orlando, and I think he does it in Cincinnati now. He should do the weather, because he threw under the weather."

Takeaways from the Fort: College sweep

February, 27, 2014
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Takeaways from the Fort after the Boston Red Sox beat Northeastern and Boston College by the identical scores of 5-2:

[+] EnlargeGrady Sizemore
Michael Ivins/Boston Red Sox/Getty ImagesGrady Sizemore was 0-for-2 Thursday in his first game action with the Red Sox.
Grady Sizemore looked comfortable on a baseball field. It has been two years since he was able to say that. Sizemore played left field and went 0-for-2 in his two at-bats, flying out and lining out. He is scheduled to play again Saturday.

"He's working hard," David Ortiz said. "Looked good. Trying to stay healthy. We'll see how it goes."

When someone asked a follow-up question about Sizemore, asking Ortiz what he sees, he replied: "Looks all sexy and good-looking. What do you want me to tell you?

"He's a great player, man, but he's just been dealing with injuries. Sad, man, that he's dealing with injuries. It's hard to want to continue playing when things go that way, but he looked good to me."

• A dozen pitchers got in work for the Sox, six in each game. Brandon Workman started the first game, Rubby De La Rosa the second. Each pitched two scoreless innings, allowing a hit and striking out two.

"I thought for the most part we threw strikes, stayed in control of the count for the better part of the guys who walked to the mound,"Red Sox manager John Farrell said. "And it was good to see guys in game situations, to see their instincts."

• Nonroster outfielder Corey Brown was hit in the back of the left hand while swinging at a pitch in the third inning of Game 2 and was taken out for precautionary reasons, but checked out OK afterward, Farrell said. No fracture of any kind, he said.

• Catcher Christian Vazquez hit the day's only home run, a long ball over the top of the left-field wall, in the second game.

• Three players had two hits apiece for the Sox on Thursday: third baseman Garin Cecchini, first baseman Travis Shaw, and catcher Ryan Lavarnway. Shaw and Lavarnway each had a double.

[+] EnlargeOrtiz
AP Photo/Steven SenneDavid Ortiz smiles after getting fooled by a pitch from Northeastern's James Mulry.
• The Sox remain undefeated against their college visitors, 12-0 against Northeastern and 24-0 over BC. The Huskies actually took a 2-1 lead into the sixth, but the Sox scored four runs in the bottom of the inning, helped by a double error and a triple by Scott Cousins, the former Marlin.

• The only extra-base hits by the college kids were doubles by Northeastern freshman Jimmy Hand in the first game and Boston College senior first baseman John Hennessy in the nightcap. Hand is from Georgia, Hennessy from Andover, Mass. Another Andover kid, Huskies freshman Dustin Hunt, pitched two scoreless innings in the first game, while West Roxbury (and Boston Latin School) pitcher James Mulry had a moment to savor for Northeastern when he retired Dustin Pedroia on a called third strike and struck out David Ortiz, the next batter, with a breaking ball on which Ortiz was fooled badly, sending him back to the dugout laughing.

"He threw me a nasty breaking ball," Ortiz said. "He can party tonight."

Something for the kid to talk about years from now? "Why that long?" he said. "He can have a drink tonight, say, 'I struck out Papi.'"

Farrell: Lavarnway looks good at 1B

February, 26, 2014
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- On many days, long after everybody else has left the practice fields, infield instructor Brian Butterfield is still hammering grounders in the direction of Ryan Lavarnway at first base.

On and on they go, with Butterfield maintaining a non-stop dialogue of encouragement and instruction.

[+] EnlargeRyan Lavarnway
Jim Davis/The Boston Globe/Getty ImagesJohn Farrell said he'd be comfortable playing Ryan Lavarnway at first base after his work there this spring.
It’s apparently paying off.

Lavarnway is still primarily a catcher, but with that spot crowded with A.J. Pierzynski and David Ross at the major-league level and prospects Dan Butler, Christian Vazquez and Blake Swihart rising in the minors, it doesn’t hurt to have versatility.

Manager John Farrell said Wednesday that Lavarnway’s work at first base has been “very intriguing.”

“At this point, we would have no hesitation to put him at first base,” Farrell said. “That’s the kind of work he’s done there and how quickly he’s caught on. It’s not just in terms of fielding a ground ball. It’s the nuances of the position. He’s a smart guy and has got great aptitude.”

Mike Napoli’s work with Butterfield last spring certainly paid off. Napoli improved his fielding percentage 10 points (from .984 in 2012 in Texas to .994 last year) and was first in the American League in total zone total fielding runs (the number of runs above or below average the player was worth based on the number of plays made).

“[Brian’s] an incredible teacher,” Farrell said. “He’s tireless. He’s very specific and guys trust in him. I think what’s happened with Nap’s transition to first base, when guys see the ability to adapt to another position, other players see that. And they see that it’s not only accepted, but I think they become a little bit more open-minded because they’re going to get a chance to work with just a great instructor. And have a lot of confidence they will be proficient to play the position.”

* Pierzynski and Ross will be given the day off in Thursday’s doubleheader against Northeastern and Boston College, with Lavarnway and Butler going in the opener and Vazquez and Swihart in the second game.

“It’s just getting the four other catchers to split a game together because from Friday on we’ll look to go every other day between Ross and A.J. in a starting role, with other guys filling in behind,” Farrell said.

Farrell said he thought getting two to three starts with every starting pitcher would give Pierzynski enough preparation to start the season.

* Daniel Nava (neck) will take batting practice Thursday and “depending on how he comes out of that” could be ready to play in weekend games.

* Farrell said the team is taking a careful approach in trying to cut down on Napoli’s strikeouts (a franchise single-season record 187 last year, plus 21 in the playoffs) while maintaining what makes him great.

“One thing he’s stated is maybe addressing a little more of a two-strike approach,” Farrell said. “One thing we didn’t want to sacrifice is the things that are clearly his strong suit. You’re talking about a guy who’s seen the most pitches of anyone in the game. While there’s a concerted effort on his part to put the ball in play a little bit more in those two-strike situations, we don’t want him to take to get to the point where sacrificing his power starts to filter into that. And he’s well aware of that.

“The one thing he does already is he adjusts on the bat. Even for a power hitter, he will choke up. I think some of it is looking to just put the ball in play. Many times that’s going to be to the off field.”

Butterfield skeptical on plate-collision rules

December, 14, 2013
BOSTON -- Having served as a third-base coach for 10 years in the major leagues, there isn't a lot left that the Boston Red Sox's Brian Butterfield hasn't seen. However, with MLB set to eliminate home-plate collisions by 2015 at the latest, Butterfield is anticipating the possibility of a major change to the way he does his job.

"I haven't spoken to [manager John Farrell] about it yet but that's going to have to come up in spring training when we talk about our baserunning," Butterfield said. "It may change our thought process. I'm sure it's something that John's thinking about already."

Sandy Alderson, chairman of MLB's rules committee, announced the proposed rule change Wednesday, with sources telling ESPN's Buster Olney the rule will not allow catchers to block home plate or runners to target catchers, under threat of punishment. Butterfield said he is unsure of what to think about the changes, citing the need for more information.

"I want to find out more," Butterfield said. "When you first hear it, they were talking a lot about the catcher's welfare … but the thing that I want to know is how they're going to govern everything from a catcher's standpoint as well as a baserunner's standpoint.

"I think it's going to be real important on both sides. It's got to be both sides and there are some things I'm having a tough time [with]. I don't know how they're going to play the ball that is thrown and takes the catcher up the line.

"If you've got somebody coming in knowing that [they] can loosen your jaw a little bit, a lot of times you're not going to be as aggressive to go get that ball. Catchers knowing that there's no contact, they're going to feel real good with all that gear on going up the line.

"I don't want to see catchers get hurt but I also don't want to see runners get hurt, so it's going to be real important the way they word the rule. How are you going to protect the runner?"

Red Sox catcher Ryan Lavarnway shared a similar stance toward the proposed change.

"I've talked to a few of the other catchers and I think that in general we all want to see it the way it is. We think that that is a part of the game," Lavarnway said. "I understand where the owners are coming from, they're trying to keep us healthy. I think that their intentions are in the right place and I think that we can find some middle ground, but if it was up to me, I'd leave it the way it is.

"If you start changing the rules of the way we grew up and you're asking players to do something that's not natural to most of them, that concerns me because you learn how to protect yourself by the way you know the rules to be. And when you change something like that it's a little unpredictable."

The language of the rule change is set to be presented to owners for approval at their Jan. 16 meetings. Approval from the players union is necessary for the change to be put into effect in 2014; however, Alderson said the rule could be implemented unilaterally in 2015.

"I would think in a short period of time where you try to define the way plays are made at the plate, there might be some glitches in the first year regardless of whatever year you decide to start doing it," Butterfield said. "Too much unknown for me right now, but I'm a baserunning guy [and] that's going to be very important to me.

"It's going to be very irritating. We'll see how it goes."

Catcher Lavarnway on bubble entering 2014

December, 14, 2013
BOSTON -- With the signing of free agent A.J. Pierzynski to a one-year deal, the Boston Red Sox now have five catchers on their 40-man roster.

Last year's backup David Ross figures to split time at the position with Pierzynski after starting four of the team's six World Series games, including the final three. Meanwhile, minor leaguers Dan Butler and Christian Vazquez are continuing to develop, and both offer strong defensive potential at the position. That leaves 26-year-old Ryan Lavarnway on the bubble entering the 2014 season.

[+] EnlargeLavarnway
Darren McCollester/Getty Images Craig Breslow and Ryan Lavarnway visited a fan and his dad at Boston Children's Hospital on Friday.
Speaking at the Red Sox's annual "Christmas at Fenway" event on Saturday, Lavarnway shared his thoughts on the team's signing of Pierzynski.

"A.J.'s a good player," Lavarnway said. "He's been pretty established, he's had a lot of success at the plate and behind it. We want to win."

Lavarnway made his major league debut after a strong 2011 season with Triple-A Pawtucket that saw him hit .295 with 18 home runs. For Boston, he went 7-for-22 in six starts behind the plate before being sent back down until September, when he made three more starts at catcher, including the team's final game of the season that saw the Red Sox forfeit their postseason spot to the Tampa Bay Rays.

Since then, Lavarnway has started each season by being optioned to the minors, the result of Jarrod Saltalamacchia's blossoming into a full-time starter and the signings of free agents Kelly Shoppach in 2012 and Ross in 2013 as backups.

Following the trade of Shoppach to the New York Mets in August 2012, Lavarnway became Saltalamacchia's backup before being handed the starting position by manager Bobby Valentine, who shifted Saltalamacchia over to first base. Lavarnway struggled in the role, hitting .157 and allowing 25 stolen bases in 25 starts.

After Ross suffered a concussion that landed him on the disabled list May 12 of last season, Lavarnway was recalled once again to serve as a backup, making only 18 starts behind the plate and hitting .299. Now, with Pierzynski in tow, Lavarnway has yet to have been told what the plan for him is next season.

"I haven't had any conversations with [general manager Ben Cherington] about that so I don't know," Lavarnway said. "I'm excited to defend the world championship next year. I don't know what else I can tell you."

Lavarnway looks to be third on Boston's catching depth chart heading into spring training with Butler, Vazquez and top prospect Blake Swihart behind him.

Known for his offense, Lavarnway is a career .282 hitter across five minor league seasons compared to a .208 hitter in his major league stints. He has one option remaining on his contract.

Sox tie record for passed balls

August, 6, 2013
HOUSTON -- The Red Sox tied a major-league record on Tuesday night, but not one they will celebrate.

Catching knuckleballer Steven Wright, Ryan Lavarnway had four passed balls in the first inning, marking just the third time in league history that four passed balls occurred in the same frame.

Despite using an oversized mitt, Lavarnway struggled to stay in front of the fluttering pitches. In his first big-league start, Wright had two walks, hit one batter, gave up a hit and quickly put the Red Sox in a 3-0 hole.

He was pulled after the first inning as reliever Brandon Workman took the mound.

The last time a catcher had four passed balls in an inning was Aug. 22, 1987, when knuckleballer Charlie Hough was pitching. Before that, knuckleballer Hoyt Wilhelm was on the mound when it happened in 1954.

Roster shuffle: Ross, Aceves, Iglesias return

May, 24, 2013
BOSTON -- The Boston Red Sox made a slew of roster moves on Friday afternoon, putting outfielder Shane Victorino and third baseman Will Middlebrooks on the disabled list, activating catcher David Ross, promoting pitcher Alfredo Aceves and infielder Jose Iglesias and demoting Ryan Lavarnway.

The rash of transactions comes a day after Middlebrooks left a 12-3 loss to Cleveland after just four innings due to a lower back strain, Victorino sat out his third straight game with a hamstring issue and the bullpen was forced to eat up six innings after a poor start by Ryan Dempster.

Manager John Farrell had been hoping to keep Victorino off the DL. His DL stint is retroactive to May 21. The move became necessary when an MRI on Middlebrooks' back showed inflammation in the muscles surrounding the spine, leaving Farrell with two regulars nursing injuries that would require at least a couple more days.

Extended time off might be necessary anyway for Victorino, who has nursed back injuries and also hurt his side slamming into the short wall in right field at Fenway Park during the last homestand. His first two months in a Red Sox uniform have seen multiple interruptions.

"The thing that was frustrating for us, coming off that seven days [with the back injury], running into the wall probably didn't help. But coming back and taking two days off, coming back for a game and a half and something else resurfacing," Victorino said. "I think that's the part that frustrated not only myself but I think the training staff. I don't want to be that guy and play half a game and have something resurface and somebody else has to go in for me. That's not the kind of player I am. That kind of stuff frustrates me."

Victorino said that he understood that with Middlebrooks hurt there was a need for more reinforcements for a bench that was already playing thin. Waiting was no longer an option.

Farrell recognizes the reality of the situation as well. While Aceves, who was in the rotation for Triple-A Pawtucket, provides some immediate support in the bullpen, the roster shuffle keeps the bench a man short. That should change soon.

"Given the short start last night we needed a pitcher in the short term," Farrell said. "We're carrying an extra reliever, obviously, right now. At some point we'd like to get back to the balance of carrying 12 pitchers and 13 position players."

Speculation has arisen that Jackie Bradley Jr. could be a candidate if and when another position player is needed.

In the middle of a season-long slump, Middlebrooks (0 for his last 11 and hitting .201) left Thursday's game with spasms in his lower back. He had previously been playing through bruised ribs as well, but that did not contribute to the spasms, Farrell said.

Farrell added that it would take 3-5 days "just to get ahead" of the injury to Middlebrooks. The location of the injury also played a part in the decision-making process.

"Given where we are with the roster position, player-wise, we had to make a move, and really precautionary for Will," Farrell said. "Lower-back issues, we talked about with Shane, same thing here with Will. We don't want to be taking anything too risky that could prolong."

Shortstop Iglesias was given a start at third base earlier in the week at Pawtucket and will start there Friday night for the Red Sox against the Cleveland Indians. He will hit ninth.

Activated from the seven-day concussion disabled list, Ross had missed the past 11 games after being struck in the catcher's mask by two straight foul balls in the ninth inning of a game May 11 against the Blue Jays.

Ross discussed a previous concussion that led to some memory loss after a blow to the back of the head. This one was a bit different.

"Talked with my wife about normal stuff, got real emotional, started crying at the drop of a hat," he said. "I'm not really a crier. My wife was like, 'You're messed up, you need to see a doctor.'"

Ross said the trainers told him the symptoms sometimes take time to set in, and that's why he did not feel as much initially. They then set in motion the 7-day concussion stint that required a little extra time before Ross was ready.

Aceves was demoted April 24 after a meeting with Farrell, pitching coach Juan Nieves and general manager Ben Cherington after Boston's 6-5 win over Oakland at Fenway Park. Prior to his demotion, Aceves had made three starts in place of John Lackey, who was on the DL. Aceves surrendered a total of 12 earned runs over 13 1/3 innings before being sent down.

In four starts with the PawSox, Aceves was 2-1 with a 3.13 ERA. He last pitched May 17 and will be utilized in long relief for Boston.

Morales shut down; Victorino still hurting

April, 27, 2013
BOSTON -- Red Sox left-hander Franklin Morales has been shut down with a pectoral strain, manager John Farrell said Saturday.

Morales, originally placed on the 15-day disabled list with a lower back strain, was well into a rehab that began with extended spring training games and included a three-inning appearance for Class A Greenville on April 17. However, he was scratched from a scheduled rehab outing for Double-A Portland earlier in the week, and an MRI later revealed the strain.

Farrell said that the shut-down period will last five days. Thursday was the first day, meaning Morales may be able to start a new throwing program by Tuesday. Given Morales' shoulder issues at the end of the 2012 season and various ailments this spring, there will be no rush to the process.

"How long it takes remains to be seen," Farrell said.

As Morales progressed earlier this month he was a nice candidate, along with Alfredo Aceves, to pick up spot starts in the event of injuries. Aceves has since been demoted to Triple-A Pawtucket on the heels of a miserable outing, leaving Allen Webster, who made his major league debut Sunday against Kansas City, as a more likely candidate.

None of that matters if the Opening Day rotation remains intact once John Lackey returns Sunday for his first start since an injury-shortened outing in Toronto on April 6. The right-hander, who threw 3 2/3 innings Monday at Portland, is completely clear of any symptoms related to the biceps strain that shelved him.

Farrell would not put a number on how many pitches Lackey can throw but said he should be good to reach the middle innings, provided Lackey is effective.

As for that effectiveness, Farrell expects to see it. He said that Lackey, in the limited time since his return from Tommy John surgery, has looked a lot like he did in a solid second half of 2010.

"Whether in spring training or the first start back in Toronto, I see a guy who's pitching much like he did in the second half of that year," Farrell said.

Lackey had a 3.97 ERA in 15 starts after the All-Star break in 2010, eventually leading the staff in starts and innings pitched.

In other injury news:

* Right fielder Shane Victorino remains out of the lineup for the third straight game and is questionable for Sunday as he wrestles with a back issue. Farrell indicated that there is a good chance that Victorino will sit again Sunday and the team can then utilize Monday's day off to give him an extended break and "get ahead of this" injury.

The assumption is that Ryan Lavarnway will be sent down to make room on the roster for Lackey, but nothing is set in stone until Victorino improves.

"[Lavarnway's] spot could be the one that's adjusted for John. We have to get through the next 48 hours with Shane as well to determine any other moves," Farrell said.

Jackie Bradley Jr. made a rare start in right field for Triple-A Pawtucket on Friday and was penciled into that spot again Saturday, a strong indication that the organization is making preparations for a more extended period of time without Victorino.

* Right-hander Joel Hanrahan, sidelined with a hamstring strain, felt a slight twinge on one pitch in his rehab outing with Pawtucket on Friday, but otherwise got through his one inning of work just fine. He allowed two runs on two hits, including a homer, and struck out one. Hanrahan will make one more rehab appearance Sunday and could rejoin the team when it begins a six-game road trip in Toronto on Tuesday.

* Also continuing to rehab this weekend is Craig Breslow, who will throw both Saturday and Sunday as he works his way back from a shoulder issue. Breslow failed to record an out and gave up three runs in his first outing Tuesday in Portland.

Farrell quick hits: Lester to start opener

March, 27, 2013
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- It had been assumed, and now it’s official: Jon Lester will be the Opening Day starter when the Red Sox face the Yankees at Yankee Stadium on Monday.

“The way he was lined up, he was probably targeted all along,” manager John Farrell said Wednesday, “but at the same time, we didn’t want that to be a focal point. His work that was needed and the adjustments he has continued to reinforce and repeat on the mound were the priorities, and we felt like it was important to focus on the needs of spring training for every pitcher, including Jon.”

Farrell said Lester has reverted back to the delivery that made him a dominant pitcher for four years before his ERA blew up to 4.82 last season, when he gave up 216 hits in 205 1/3 innings and had his lowest strikeout total since 2008.

This spring, Lester is tied with Seattle’s Brandon Maurer for the lowest ERA (0.90), has given up just six hits in 20 innings, and has a MLB-leading WHIP of 0.50.

“He’s executed pitches with a consistency we’ve seen before, which made him one of the top left-handers in the game,” Farrell said. “He’s had a very strong spring training.”

In the past, it was regarded as “Josh Beckett’s rotation” -- a nod to his experience and accomplishments. With Beckett now in Los Angeles, is this now “Lester’s rotation”?

Not necessarily, Farrell said.

“A lot is made of an Opening Day assignment,” he said. “For everybody on a major-league roster, that’s a special day in and of itself. Once we get past that, it’s maybe a cliché, but the guy who walks to the mound is our No. 1 starter. We don’t want to lose the importance of the five guys in the rotation, and yet Jon has been in the discussion of a very select group of pitchers in the major leagues, and he’s pitching like that again.

“We have a pretty varied group in the rotation. I think each shows their leadership by their work routine and how they go out and compete, and the priority they place on the role that they have. I can’t say it’s because Jon is starting on Monday that he becomes a different person in the clubhouse. I think that would be pretty unrealistic. But he’s five or six years into his big-league career and he’s more than capable of that responsibility of being an Opening Day starter.”

Farrell said Clay Buchholz and Ryan Dempster will follow Lester in the series in New York, then Felix Doubront and John Lackey will go in Toronto.

The Red Sox have the lowest ERA (3.95) and WHIP (1.27) of any team in spring training -- which Farrell attributes to health, the pitchers’ willingness to embrace some of the suggestions the new staff has offered, and the input of pitching coach Juan Nieves.

“I think that’s shown up in some positive results that reinforce that -- whether that’s working a little bit quicker or whether that’s some of the individual adjustments guys are taking to the mound and repeating,” he said. “Our rotation is going to give us an element of consistency, and that comes every single night. You can’t stress that importance enough. That has to become a cornerstone of this team because it will take us a long way in how deep we go in this season in contention.

“Juan has done an excellent job. Juan’s a very good pitching coach. He’s got lot of experience first-hand as an elite pitcher in his own right, yet his career was cut short because of injury. He’s a great communicator. He’s genuine. Pitchers know that he cares about them and is there at any time of day for them. Because of that genuineness, that trust is being built by the day.”

Other takeaways from Farrell’s media session:

* He said the organization is still “working through” a decision on whether Jackie Bradley Jr. will open the season in the big leagues.

“We’d probably like to have some sense of who our 25 guys are going to be by the end of day tomorrow,” Farrell said. “We just want to be fair to all that are going north that they have a couple of days to prepare themselves.”

* Jacoby Ellsbury, who sprained his ankle Sunday, will be kept out of today’s game as a precautionary measure. Farrell said Ellsbury is expected to be back in the lineup Thursday, along with Shane Victorino (right wrist).

* David Ortiz hit Wednesday morning and Farrell said he is “making solid process in terms of increasing his activity. There will be agility work on the field as well. He’s feeling pretty good right now. He’s done some straight-ahead running, so part of that agility program will be change of direction. He’s feeling like he can progress from hitting in the cage to hitting off the machine to getting on the field today with the normal group.”

* Farrell said that he has not ruled out a minor-league game for shortstop Stephen Drew, still recovering from a concussion.

“Based on how he felt this past Sunday, that seemed to be in line, but yet there were recurring minor symptoms and we have to let that clear up,” Farrell said. “He feels improved today. What’s been happening is he’ll have those feelings at night after a full day of activity, and sometimes it extends into the following day. When that occurs, it’s obvious things are not back to complete 100 percent. It does vary at times.”

Farrell said that Drew and Ortiz are likely to head north with the team, while pitchers Franklin Morales and Craig Breslow will likely remain in Fort Myers.

* Catcher Ryan Lavarnway was optioned to Triple-A, and pitchers Anthony Carter and Jose De La Torre were reassigned to minor-league camp.

Farrell on Lavarnway: “Right now, he needs everyday at-bats. He has come back in at a weight that is more consistent with his in the past, and overall strength. I thought he did a very good job with the catching side of the game. His transfer and footwork are much improved. He threw out (Minnesota’s) Ben Revere the other day on a release time from the pitcher that was average, yet we had him 1.9 (seconds) at the plate, which is more than acceptable at the big-league level. The emphasis this spring training was on the defensive side, yet we’ve known him to be an offensive player. When those two parts of his game are aligned, he’s a major-league player.”

5 Questions -- 5. Young contributors?

February, 8, 2013
The final installment of a five-part series looking at the biggest questions facing the Red Sox leading into spring training:

5: Which young players will help this season?

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- The Red Sox begin camp next week with what appears to be few open roster spots and little competition for jobs. One injury could change all that, of course, but at the moment, the bullpen and a backup reserve spot or two would appear to be the only jobs up for grabs in February.


Which young Red Sox player will make the biggest impact in 2013?


Discuss (Total votes: 3,272)

Still, there are a number of young players who may not break camp with the club on Opening Day but almost certainly will make an impact before the end of the season, some for years to come.

Here are seven to watch:

Ryan Lavarnway: Lavarnway's immediate future took a detour when the Red Sox signed veteran David Ross as a backup catcher to Jarrod Saltalamacchia, leaving Lavarnway looking at a return to Pawtucket, where he certainly has little left to prove, especially at the plate. Coaching guru Gary Tuck praised the strides Lavarnway made behind the plate, although that still remains a matter of debate in some circles. Lavarnway batted just .157 in 153 at-bats in 2012, far too small a sample size to draw any conclusions, and with Saltalamacchia just a year away from free agency, a trade is not out of the question.

Jose Iglesias: 2013 was the year the Red Sox had projected for Iglesias to arrive, but his light bat and this winter's signing of Stephen Drew have postponed any coming-out party for the gifted shortstop, whose defensive skills may have no equal. Yes, that's saying a lot, but it may all be for naught if Iglesias, who has looked woefully overmatched at the plate in two big league exposures, doesn't pick up his offense. It's much too soon to quit on him -- he is still just 23 -- but Xander Bogaerts, the player regarded as the best prospect in the system, is closing fast.

Allen Webster, Rubby De La Rosa: They're served as a parlay here because they came together from the Dodgers in the Gonzo/CC/Beckett deal, and both have legitimate shots at cracking the rotation at some point this season. De La Rosa has the more spectacular assets, including a 100 mph fastball and a changeup inherited from Pedro Martinez, but he also has had Tommy John surgery. Webster, who turns 23 on Sunday, may actually be the more polished pitcher, and has outstanding sink action on his fastball that should play well in the big leagues. They may be in Pawtucket in April, but check back at midseason, if not sooner.

Steven Wright
AP Photo/Mike Janes/Four Seam ImagesCould Steven Wright succeed Tim Wakefield as Boston's resident knuckleballer?
Jackie Bradley Jr.: We all may be getting just a little ahead of ourselves here. Bradley, after all, began last season in high Class A and has just half a season of Double-A experience. Don't be surprised if he opens 2013 back in Portland, although a promotion should not be long in coming. Bradley is an above-average defender with a strong arm who has not only been productive at the plate but also disciplined, which accounts for his rapid rise. He projects as the team's center fielder of the future if Jacoby Ellsbury leaves as a free agent, but it's no certainty that he'll contribute to the big club this season. Still, I wouldn't bet against it.

Steven Wright: The knuckleballer with the comedian's name is 28 -- old for a rookie but equivalent to puberty for the practitioner of the pitch that made Tim Wakefield famous. Wright came to the Sox from Cleveland, and if any organization is inclined to give a fair hearing to a knuckler, it should be this one.

Alex Wilson: He may have a tough time cracking what looks to be a crowded bullpen, but the former Texas A&M star successfully made the transition to the 'pen in Pawtucket last season and could receive a summons at some point.

Lavarnway unfazed by uncertain future

December, 1, 2012
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."

[+] EnlargeRyan Lavarnway
Otto Greule Jr/Getty ImagesThe 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."

Farrell Q&A: Aceves, Lester, SS, coaches

December, 1, 2012
BOSTON -- Red Sox manager John Farrell, appearing at the team's "Christmas at Fenway" event Saturday at the ballpark, touched on a number of topics with reporters.

On whether he has been involved in recruiting free agents: "To varying degrees. That's probably more related to where we are in certain stages with individual guys. I certainly anticipate that being the case going forward."

[+] EnlargeAlfredo Aceves
Barry Chin/Getty ImagesAlfredo Aceves' role for 2013 is still up in the air.
On whether he has spoken with Alfredo Aceves, who was tendered a contract Friday: "Briefly. We've had some brief conversations, a number of messages left. Colorful. He's a talented pitcher. He can do some things in the game, he may be the only guy who can do them. With the frequency with which he can pitch, to the number of pitches that are thrown, he's a talented guy.

"From my standpoint, the approach taken is to be candid with him, to be consistent with him, both in terms of what we value in guy's approach, but as best can be communicated to him in his role. That will evolve going forward, but I think the most important thing is for him to understand where he sits with us, how we view him, and what his role is, then he can best prepare for that."

Asked whether he has made a determination of what Aceves' role will be, Farrell said: "Not definitively. We certainly feel the frequency of his availability as a reliever is a major asset."

On speaking to pitcher Jon Lester, and addressing with Lester the speculation that the left-hander could be traded: "You take the temperature of their reaction, of what could initially be there. And I know Jon, in his own words, wants to prove a number of people wrong. And I said, ‘Before we go that far, look at it as a positive, that you're a good player. Teams inquire about good players all the time. You can't change the opinion of others by what you do right now. You can by performing to your capabilities, and that's where our focus has to be.'

"He's a Red Sock. I think any time that first rumor gets out there, it's going to be a little startling for guys. But I know one thing: He's extremely motivated and he's working his tail off right now to have a very strong year."

Farrell said he has had conversations with catchers Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Ryan Lavarnway, who also have been mentioned in trade talk.

"I think it's important to communicate with guys what the thought is, and this is a starting point. Certainly not the end come April 1."

Farrell said he has not decided whether he will be visiting with any players.

On whether he would be surprised if the Sox traded one of their front-line starting pitchers: "Anything is a possibility, but until we get there, I'm planning on everyone who is on the roster to be here. We have some work to do to get guys back to the levels they were before, and that's where the focus is right now.

"Ben [Cherington] is going to put together a damn good roster, and I'm fully confident in that."

On whether there has been any discussion on moving Ryan Lavarnway to first base: "We haven't had those discussions, because there is so much focus and emphasis on his development, that's where the focus continues to be. With his offensive production as a catcher, he's putting himself in a small group. There's some work to be done there, but that's where the focus is."

[+] EnlargePedro Ciriaco
Bob DeChiara/US PresswireJohn Farrell suggested that Pedro Ciriaco could become more valuable by learning to play CF.
On whether he'd like to see greater depth at shortstop: "That's a conversation that's ongoing. It's December 1st. I know the winter meetings are starting and the market is taking shape and things will start falling in place, but that's all part of a number of moving parts."

On Pedro Ciriaco: "When you consider he was a minor league free agent, he was a darn good player. He's athletic, can do a number of things. I know there was an attempt to put him in center field, which when you look at a player with his skill set, that's a natural thing. If he can play center field, boy, his value really starts to increase.

"Good first-step quickness, plenty of arm strength to play anywhere on the field, I don't want to say he was a great find, but he was a heck of an addition when you consider how he came to the big leagues."

On hiring Victor Rodriguez as assistant hitting coach: "Victor does have a lot of relationships with guys on this club and throughout the system, and whoever the lead hitting coach was coming in, once we named that person Victor was a very easy match to that to give a lot of background information and be able to contribute in his own right. Victor is going to be a very strong addition to this staff."

On taking his coaching staff to the team's training facility in Fort Myers for a two-day session next Friday and Saturday after the winter meetings: "With the exception of Gary Tuck, Arnie Beyeler and Victor, we've never laid eyes on that complex. To have some understanding of it, to plan spring training, so when we start there's no hidden element to this, I think this will give us a leg up on training for spring training."

Farrell brought the Blue Jays to Fort Myers last spring a couple of times, so he has seen it.

Bench coach Torey Lovullo will be charged with planning big league spring training, Farrell said. The team's advance scouting team and some other front-office staff will also attend the session in the Fort.

On Franklin Morales coming to camp preparing to be a starter: "You can always go back the other way," he said. "But what he did in the rotation the time he was in it was very impressive. Not to say how our rotation is going to look, but he did a good job."

On the importance of adding stars: "You're never not going to want or take talented players. But more important to that is the success of the team has got that team concept buy-in. That's not only an area that's being talked about with players that have been here, but what we're looking to add to it. How we work collectively, how we work together and compete together, you can have a group of individuals but if there's no common thread I think that's just going to make the challenge more difficult."

Gomes' deal official; Bailey, Lavarnway talk

December, 1, 2012
BOSTON -- A few matters of note Saturday morning, where the Red Sox are staging "Christmas at Fenway," on the one-year anniversary of Bobby Valentine's introduction as Red Sox manager:

•The Sox made Jonny Gomes' signing of a two-year, $10 million deal official. "He fits well on a number of fronts -- personality standpoint, ability standpoint -- into what we're trying to do," GM Ben Cherington said during a 15-minute session with reporters at the ballpark.

Cherington talked about Gomes playing in left field for the Sox in 2013.

"Exactly how many at-bats, that's up to (manager) John (Farrell), and I guess, up to Jonny to some degree, how he performs," Cherington said. "We think the ballpark is a good fit for him. He's a grinder, an intense competitor. Matchups aren't always about left-right."

Sox closer Andrew Bailey said he'd heard from a number of former A's teammates raving about Gomes. "From the first day of spring training, he came in and said this team reminded him of the 2008 Rays and kept the positive message throughout," Bailey said. "Guys told me I'm going to love him. I'm really looking forward to playing with him."

•Gomes' signing has not altered the team's desire to re-sign Cody Ross, Cherington said, with whom the club has maintained "consistent" contact. "But he is talking to other teams as well," he said.

•The Sox would like to sign at least one more outfielder, Cherington said. He said the team would prefer to have another outfielder who could play both center and right, though he acknowledged that's not always possible.

•Bailey said he plans to begin throwing next week, a little earlier than usual, with the idea of getting on a mound after the first of the year and coming to Fort Myers around Feb. 1. He said he expects to be the team's closer next season. "I think I have to," he said. "Right now I'm the only guy in that role."

•Catcher Ryan Lavarnway said the Sox have not approached him about a possible move to first base and said he would be open to it if they did, but made it clear he would prefer to remain a catcher, given the work he has put in at the position. He called new acquisition David Ross "a great catcher" and said he didn't know how Ross's acquisition would impact his role with the club. Lavarnway has moved to Colorado and is training there.

"I feel prepared (for playing with the Sox), but I trust Ben. Whatever he feels I need to do, I'll do," said Lavarnway. Asked about the possibility of being traded, he said he won't worry about things he has no control over.

•Cherington said that he'll have a better sense in Nashville whether the Sox will address their needs more through trades or free agent signings. "Coming off the year we had, maybe in light of that, teams not surprisingly are inquiring about things that maybe they haven't in the past," Cherington said. "Look, we have to be open-minded when you have a year like this."

•Asked if the Sox would entertain trading a starting pitcher, Cherington said: "Anything is possible, but it certainly gets harder to do that."

•Cherington said that Rubby De La Rosa, one of the pitchers acquired from the Dodgers in last August's megadeal with the Dodgers, is coming to camp as a starting pitcher and could factor into the big league picture in 2013. De la Rosa is working out in Arizona, where a couple of Sox people visited him and were pleased with the progress he is making.