- Joe McDonald, Reporter, ESPNBoston.com
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BOSTON -- Red Sox catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia could barely bend over to pick up a towel off the floor in the clubhouse Sunday morning.
He was hoping the back spasms he'd been dealing with the last few days would calm down so that he could return to the lineup, but that hasn't been the case. He was removed from Friday's game in the eighth inning and was not available to play Saturday or Sunday. With Monday being an off day, the idea was to give him three days of rest and treatment in hopes of being ready for the New York Yankees on Tuesday night at Fenway Park.
That's not the case.
Rookie catcher Ryan Lavarnway will start and bat sixth for the Red Sox.
"We'd like to give [Saltalamacchia] another day," Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine said. "He threw, he hit and he felt OK, but the medical staff thought, after hitting and throwing if he feels good [Wednesday] maybe he could play."
Saltalamacchia has played 106 games this season and has a .225 average with 23 homers and 53 RBIs. He said it's tough to watch from the bench, but also supports Lavarnway's development.
"I want to play, bad," Saltalamacchia said. "I was fortunate enough to show what I could do last year, and show what I could do this year. I hate sitting on the bench, watching the guys I've played with all year and battled with playing without me. But at the same time, I understand the situation and I understand he's got to play and see what he can do. He has to get comfortable up here at this level too because he's going to be a big part of this organization, a big part of us winning."
Entering Tuesday, Lavarnway has played 26 games this season (after playing 17 games with Boston last season) and has a .169 average with one home run and three RBIs. While his offensive numbers are down, he's proven at the minor league level that he can hit. Now it's only a matter of working on his defense and getting comfortable with the Red Sox pitching staff.
"He's done a good job," Saltalamacchia said. "He's finally getting a little playing time where he can show what he can do. I think defensively, he's made a lot of strides behind the plate, and from where he was last year, I think he'll continue to get better. This is good for him to get to know the pitchers and good to get to know the game up here because the game can get fast. The more you play, the better you're going to get."
When Saltalamacchia was coming up, he said the toughest adjustment as a catcher simply was to get comfortable.
"Catching is the toughest position to come up as a young guy because you do have all those responsibilities," Saltalamacchia said. "It can be overwhelming, especially at the big league level. And the AL East is a tough division to learn on the go, but he's done a good job."
Valentine said he thinks Lavarnway is better than what he has shown so far.
"I don't think the evaluation has been done," Valentine said. "This isn't his best, for sure. What you want to do is see someone at their best, someone at their worst and then figure out where they really are in between. I don't think we've seen the full sample yet."