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Red Sox Notebook

Progress, but with a catch

By Nick Cafardo
Globe Staff / March 19, 2012
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PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. - Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine loves what he’s seen from catcher Ryan Lavarnway, but he’s not quite ready to give him a spot on the 25-man roster.

Valentine, who has managed Ivan Rodriguez and Mike Piazza, said Lavarnway has made strides in all phases of defense. Catching instructor Gary Tuck has given the youngster good grades after he’s made adjustments.

Valentine said the decision on Lavarnway is getting tougher, but as far as giving him a spot on the team, “I’m not quite there yet.’’

He did say that Lavarnway will reach the major leagues “under my watch.’’ But he said even when that happens, he doesn’t expect Lavarnway will be a finished product because of all he has to learn.

“Salty [Jason Saltalamacchia] is still learning, Kelly [Shoppach] is still learning. He’s learning our staff. A lot of things he has to keep developing with.’’

Valentine said that even with the offensive component of Lavarnway’s game, the manager will not be tempted to go with three catchers.

He did say if Lavarnway was ever the second catcher, he wouldn’t be afraid to use him as a pinch hitter. Some managers are hesitant to use the backup as a pinch hitter in case of an injury to the starter.

Valentine said he often pinch hit Piazza on days he wasn’t catching in big situations, throwing caution to the wind to win the game at that moment.

Valentine said Lavarnway’s improvement has not necessarily come “in game situations, but he definitely has graded better in Tuck’s evaluation and in my eye. He’s going about it the right way.

“He’s there until the ninth inning every game and he’s not just on the bench, but he’s watching the game. He’s evaluating and processing. It’s the right thing to do and he’s not being told to do it. It’s not that he has an assigned seat. He’s just doing it.’’

Buchholz shines

Clay Buchholz went five innings, allowing one run on four hits, in the Sox’ 8-4 win over the Rays Sunday.

Buchholz, who lowered his spring ERA to 2.70, worked on his curveball in the outing.

“It felt really good,’’ he said. “It’s progressed from the game I pitched back home [a minor league simulated game last week]. Felt good being in a real game. Throwing my curveball more. When it’s working, it’s a good pitch for me.’’

Valentine’s view: “He obviously looked good. He had a good curveball and fastball. He and Salty work great together. Other than the back-to-back changeups to Evan Longoria [who hit a home run], I thought it was a real good outing.’’

Watch out

Saltalamacchia said his sore hip felt better, though he had a massive ice pack on it after the game. The condition, which has been termed as bursitis, bears watching . . . Valentine said he liked what he saw from Vicente Padilla, who allowed one run on five hits over the final three innings. Padilla seems to be solidifying a spot in the bullpen, but there’s always been some question whether his injury history will allow him to pitch consistently out of the pen. “We’re going to try to find out,’’ said Valentine. . . . Journeyman infielder Pedro Ciriaco is hitting .545. “He’s a good player,’’ Valentine said. “I know you thought I was kidding early when I said that. I really like him.’’ The manager lauded Ciriaco’s hands, arm, and speed. Can he continue his hot hitting? “He hits the fastball and if he sees the breaking ball,’’ said Valentine. “He’s just not pulling the ball. A lot of times guys have a lot of hits and pull the ball. He’s hitting breaking balls and hitting to all fields.’’

Anderson scratched

Lars Anderson was scratched from the lineup with calf stiffness. He was replaced by Mauro Gomez. Anderson, normally a first baseman, has enjoyed his work in the outfield so far . . . Valentine said Jason Repko “can do a lot of things during a baseball game. [Saturday] he executed a perfect relay throw that cut down a runner at the plate. He can bunt and run, he’s a very good outfielder. It’s good to know we have him if we need him.’’ . . . Jose Iglesias could play Monday, as his groin is almost fully recovered. Mike Aviles started at shortstop Sunday, made a throwing error, and couldn’t get to a ball hit in the hole that Iglesias would have gobbled up . . . Valentine said if Ryan Sweeney (quad) feels as good as he did Sunday, he should be ready Monday . . . Valentine liked what Aaron Cook did Saturday (3 1/3 scoreless innings against an Orioles split squad), but as far as the pitcher making the team out of the gate, “I don’t know,’’ he said. “He had a good outing against a regular lineup. He got his ground balls. It’s not ideal to have 18 innings in, what I have him chartered out [for], but we’ll see.’’ . . . Who will be the Opening Day starter? We may get an answer Monday . . . The Sox’ baseball operations people were watching amateur players at a tryout camp back in Fort Myers, Fla.

Expert analysis

Rays manager Joe Maddon on Shoppach, whom he managed for three years: “I thought he blocked well and threw really well. He did a better job with both of those areas than the previous year. What I like is he’s very calm and very confident. In big moments, he doesn’t get bothered. He’s the same guy every day and the pitchers like to throw to him.’’ . . . Maddon kidded about Shoppach’s propensity to lose his bat occasionally. “I really prefer when I’m in the first-base dugout when he’s hitting,’’ he said. “He’s really got a great bat-throwing ability. He definitely took the term ‘throwing the head of the bat at the ball’ to another level.’’ . . . Nate Spears went 2 for 4, including a bunt single, and his average is up to .318. He played third and right field . . . Alex Hassan stroked two hits and knocked in a run . . . Cody Ross homered, his second of the spring, to improve his average to .455.

Nick Cafardo can be reached at cafardo@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @nickcafardo.

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