So What About Lavarnway’s Defense?

On Tuesday night, Ryan Lavarnway had a pair of doubles and 4 RBI in an 8-7 loss to Lehigh Valley.

After 38 games with the PawSox, the 23-year-old catcher is batting .367/.440/.735 with 15 doubles, 13 HR, and 40 RBI.  Overall, in 93 games between Double-A Portland and Triple-A Pawtucket, Lavarnway is batting .318 with 27 HR, and 78 RBI (.995 OPS).

But I know what you’re wondering:  What about his defense?

(Photos courtesy of Kelly O’Connor)

Any time that I talk, write, or tweet about Lavarnway’s hitting exploits, I hear from somebody that wants to know if the kid can catch.  It’s almost as if people that haven’t seen him behind the plate think that every-other-pitch rolls to the backstop.  In truth, Lavarnway has been solid behind the plate so far for Pawtucket, but the “great bat, mediocre glove” label is tough to change.

“That label is irrelevant,” said Red Sox farm director Mike Hazen.  “I think if Ryan keeps his ears closed and focuses on the task at hand, then there is no label.  If he continues to work and improve, then he’s going to catch in the big leagues.”

In 20 games behind the plate with Pawtucket, Lavarnway has 0 errors, 4 passed balls, and has gunned down 27% (6 of 22) of the runners that have tried to steal against him.  But evaluating how he calls the game and receives the ball is difficult to quantify statistically. 

“The defense is steadily improving,” Hazen said.  “It’s the hardest position to play, and every day, every week, and every month, Ryan gets better and better.  That’s the best quality that I can say.  His work ethic is tremendous and he’s put every ounce of his energy into becoming a major league catcher, and we believe that he’s going to be one.  If he continues to make progress, he’s going to catch in the big leagues.  The offense is outstanding and he brings that to the table every day, but the defense is continuing to improve.”

With his offensive potential, Lavarnway doesn’t need to be a Gold Glove Award candidate to have a long career as a major league catcher.  Hazen says the key for Ryan is to simply keep working on his craft.

“Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Jason Varitek still do their daily stuff with (bullpen coach) Gary Tuck every day, and Salty has been in the big leagues for three-plus years and ‘Tek has been there forever,” Hazen said.  “That shows you the amount of time, effort, and energy that it takes to continue to refine your game – even at that level.  Ryan’s work ethic is going to allow him to catch in the big leagues.”

* * * * *

The newest member of the PawSox was once traded for a Hall of Famer.

Left-handed pitcher Royce Ring – who joined the team on Sunday – was one of three players sent from the White Sox to the Mets for Roberto Alomar in July of 2003.

“He was a great player and that was an interesting time for me,” Ring said.  “I was in my first full year after being drafted by the White Sox and I had no idea what was going to happen after that.  That’s turned into 8 teams in 10 years so it’s been interesting.”

Ring started this season with Triple-A Tacoma (Seattle org.) and opted out of his contract in early July after going 2-1 with 2 saves and a 6.08 ERA in 27 games.

“Things weren’t going well with the Mariners and I didn’t feel like I had a good opportunity to get to the big leagues with them,” Ring said.  “I opted out and after a couple of weeks and a couple of offers; I signed with the Red Sox. Boston is a great organization and I’ve heard great things about them.  They’re in contention and I know that they are looking for people to help them out in the big leagues.  So it’s a good place to come and hopefully prove to them that I can be one of those guys.”

Ring has a career 5.29 ERA in 99 major league games with the Mets (2005-06), Braves (2007-08), and Yankees (2010).  The 30-year-old has previously pitched in the International League for Norfolk, Richmond, and Scranton/WB, but is just getting to know his Pawtucket teammates. 

“I’ve never played with anybody on this team, but I’ve played against them since I’ve been in Triple-A for quite a long time,” Ring said.  “It’s been a really easy transition because it’s a great group of guys and it seems like everybody gets along. 

“There’s been interest from the Red Sox in the past, so I knew that Boston could be a possibility and when they called me to come out and play, I jumped on the opportunity.  It’s a great place to get a chance.”

* * * * *

It’s Kyle Weiland vs. Roy Oswalt on Wednesday night at 7:05, as the PawSox meet LehighValley in game two of their 4-game series.

I hope you’ll join us for radio coverage beginning with the pre-game show at 6:50 on the PawSox radio network and pawsox.com.

I’d love to hear from you.  The address is dhoard@pawsox.com.

If you Twitter, you can follow my tweets at http://twitter.com/Dan_Hoard

And I have finally joined Facebook.  Just search for Dan Hoard and look for the photo of me with the handsome lad.

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