- Joe McDonald, Reporter, ESPNBoston.com
- 0 Shares
BALTIMORE -- Boston Red Sox catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia said he wanted to play Tuesday night against the Baltimore Orioles but his collarbone is still stiff, weak and sore, so manager Terry Francona decided to go with rookie Ryan Lavarnway behind the plate with lefty Erik Bedard on the mound.
Veteran catcher Jason Varitek, who was hit in the knee with a pitch Sunday night, is still sore and not available.
Lavarnway paid immediate dividends, hitting his first major-league home run, a three-run shot in the fourth inning, and added a solo homer in the eighth. He also threw out Baltimore's Adam Jones trying to steal third base in the second of Boston's 8-7 win.
"Besides what he did offensively, I thought he ran the game, I thought he had a lot of poise," Francona said. "That was one of the more exciting things to watch. We've seen a lot of interesting things here over the years, but that was right near the top."
Lavarnway said, "It feels good, but the job's not done. We still got to go out (Wednesday) and win another ballgame."
Saltalamacchia was hit on the right side of his collarbone by a foul tip in the eighth inning on Monday and was removed from the game, but he believed he could play if needed. He did not enter the game.
"I'm definitely available tonight," Saltalamacchia said before the game. "It's gotten better. I went out and threw, it was stiff and sore, but I felt OK. I didn't hit, but I'm definitely available.
"I feel like I can start and finish the game, but (Francona's) the manager and he has to think what's best for the team and what the right idea is, especially at this point of the season. We're going to play it slow right now, but I'm available tonight."
The Red Sox and Tampa Bay Rays are currently in a dead heat in the AL wild-card race and it's obvious Saltalamacchia wants to play.
"I want to play every game, especially when we're getting down to the wire and we've got two games left," he said. "I definitely want to be in there but at the same time I want to make sure I'm 100 percent. I don't want to go out there and hurt the team. I need to be 100 percent and be able to perform. I feel good. I feel like I can perform but if it takes today to be 100 percent ready for tomorrow then that's what we'll do."
Saltalamacchia arrived at the ballpark early to receive treatment before he played catch.
"He actually threw the ball OK," Francona said before the game. "He was going to hit, but we talked to him because he's really sore."
The manager added that if Saltalamacchia did start but had to be removed early, then the Sox would lose him for the remainder of the game. With Varitek unavailable, that would leave Lavarnway and minor league catcher Luis Exposito, who hasn't caught since the PawSox season ended in early September. Lavarnway got the nod in part because of his ability to hit left-handed pitching. Baltimore is starting left-hander Zach Britton.
"Bedard's going to call his own game anyway and we can go to Salty later after he hopefully has a chance to loosen up, rather than the other way around," Francona said. "I just think it makes some sense."
Lavarnway has caught Bedard in the bullpen, and Francona said he checked with the pitcher to make sure he's comfortable with the decision.
Saltalamacchia believes Lavarnway can handle the task.
"I think he'll be fine. The kid's proved he can hit and that's not a problem," Saltalamacchia said. "Bedard's a good pitcher and he's a good guy for (Lavarnway) to call games with. The games I've watched him come in, he's done a good job calling the game. He's a smart guy. He's sat down with me and Tek and went over scouting reports, so I don't think there will be a problem."
Joe McDonald covers the Red Sox for ESPNBoston.com.