SEATTLE — The following story reminds us of the great Johnny Pesky’s signature line: “I have two things to say to the youth of America: grow up!”
The Red Sox need their youth to kick it in gear so they’ll have some idea how much they can depend on outfielder Ryan Kalish, catcher Ryan Lavarnway, and shortstop Jose Iglesias for 2013. This is what the rest of 2012 is all about, but so far we haven’t seen any reason for optimism.
It seems as if they’re all pressing a bit. They’re all trying to make that splash to get noticed, but in the process, they’re drowning.
On a team that traded $264 million of payroll and says it will not go out and spend lavishly in free agency, the system has to be turning out major league players. The other aspect of this is that they also want other teams to look at their “prospects” and covet them, especially in deals for established players.
“It seems at every level I’ve gone to, I struggle for the first 50-60 at-bats and then I take off,” said Lavarnway, who entered Tuesday night’s game 12 for 69 since his Aug. 1 recall but blasted a homer in the sixth inning. “The only place that didn’t happen was in Pawtucket, where I hit right away. The sooner I get to that point, the sooner I’m going to start hitting.”
Lavarnway, 25, is particularly important as the Sox look to the future. Teams that have catchers who can hit for power are considered fortunate. Lavarnway also was the International League’s defensive catcher of the year, but he has had shaky moments as well.
In the majors and minors, Lavarnway has caught 104 games this season, surpassing his previous high of 62 by quite a margin. Asked if that has taken its toll, he said, “A lot of people like to blame my hitting on that, but I don’t think so.”
Manager Bobby Valentine feels the scouting reports on Lavarnway have changed and that teams are pitching him differently. They aren’t throwing him fastballs that he can hit out of the park, but giving him a steady diet of offspeed stuff, making Lavarnway prove he can hit it.
This is what happens with a lot of rookie batters. In order to survive, you must hit offspeed stuff. Lavarnway’s timing has been off. Valentine has tried to mix his catching duties with time at DH so he “can concentrate some days on just hitting.”
Because Jarrod Saltalamacchia, a switch hitter, is considered a better lefthanded hitter, the Red Sox would love to have Lavarnway be a solid alternative as a righthanded power bat.
Kalish, who had two hits Monday, is still battling the aftereffects of shoulder surgery. After missing most of 2011, the 24-year-old was told it might be a full year after his surgery before he had full flexibility and felt completely healed. An offseason of rest should aid in him getting close to 100 percent by spring training.
Kalish, of course, was protected by the Sox when they sent Josh Reddick to the Oakland A’s in the Andrew Bailey deal. They believed that Kalish would be a better all-around player, a hard-nosed Trot Nixon type who can defend and make things happen on the basepaths.
The Sox have been very careful with Kalish so as not to aggravate his injuries. He was out of Tuesday night’s lineup against Seattle righthander Blake Beavan.
The question is, do you commit to Kalish as your starting right fielder next season (with Cody Ross likely moving to left) or do you pursue another outfielder via trade or free agency? It’s a tough call without knowing fully what Kalish can do, having not seen him completely healthy.
Iglesias also could be a head-scratcher for the Sox.
“I told him how special he is as a player,” said one Sox talent evaluator. “He can do incredible things with the glove. I told him if he kept working hard, his whole game could come together and he’d be a big leaguer for a long, long time.
“He’s a kid you have to commit to and hope the offensive part of things comes to him as he gains experience. He’s too special not to play.”
Iglesias, 22, started Tuesday night’s game 0 for 16 and made it 0 for 17 before doubling in the fifth. He has been fluid in the field except for a bobble in Monday’s game on which he was charged with an error. In 88 games for Pawtucket, he hit .266, which was better than expected.
Iglesias is a .264 hitter in almost 1,000 minor league at-bats. He’s also in the last year of a 4-year, $8 million deal. The Sox thought he might be up for good by now. It would appear, barring a trade, that Iglesias will challenge Mike Aviles again for the starting shortstop job, as he did last spring. But this time he may win.Continued...