Originally posted on Fenway West  |  Last updated 1/18/12

This weeks's Globe Sunday Baseball Column by Nick Cafardo spotlights Sox catching prospect Ryan Lavarnway. Lavarnway had a big season behind the plate in 2011. Between Portland and Pawtucket, he hit 32 homers, 93 rbi's, and had an on-base percentage of .939.
In 17 games with the Sox, he hit only .231. However, Cafardo cites a situation that shows Lavarnway might be the take-charge guy that Jason Varitek was in his heyday.

At some point in the Sox' ill-fated loss in the final game of 2011, Dustin Pedroia called time to give some encouragement to a struggling John Lester. As this conference was going on, Lavarnway raced out to the mound and shouted at Pedroia something to the effect of "Hey, little man, I've got this one."

This kind of leadership was severely lacking in the 2011 Sox. It has also been lacking in the past. As game 6 of the 1986 World Series was slipping away, did Rich Gedman call time and try to calm Calvin Schiraldi down?  Probably not. Catchers have a uniquely important position like no other in baseball. Along with the pitcher, they can quickly gain or lose control of an inning with a few positive or negative moves.

The Bosox have two other catchers, but neither newly-acquired Kelly Shoppach, a former Sox prospect whose career has faded, nor much-maligned Jarrod Saltalamacchia seem to have the inside track to be the first string man. Salty was in-and-out last year. He had 16 homers and a slugging percentage of .452 (third in the league for catchers) but fanned 119 times and had 26 passed balls. However-and this is a very important stat-he threw out stealing runners 28 times, the most for a Sox catcher since 2002. This has been a deficient area on the team for years.

Sox catching is still up in the air. But competition between Lavarnway and Saltalamacchia (recently signed to a one-year contract) would certainly be healthy.

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