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Lavarnway ready for action

Posted by Nick Cafardo, Globe Staff  August 18, 2011 05:55 PM

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KANSAS CITY Ryan Lavarnway was asked what he expected in his first big league game, and he gave a very honest answer.

"I'll let you know after tonight," he said.

Batting seventh and DHing, he makes his major league debut gainst the Royals. He will take David Ortiz' spot in the lineup as Ortiz continues to nurse bursitis in his right heel. Ortiz will be out for about a week at least so Lavarnway will get his chances, though Terry Francona indicated it likely won't be behind the plate.

Lavarnway is taking Kevin Youkilis' roster spot. Youkilis was placed on the 15-day disabled list earlier in the day with a back strain.

To make room on the 40-man roster for Lavarnway, lefty Randy Williams was designated for assignment.

Lavarnway said he got the word he might be going to join the major league team last night. He was pulled from a game with Pawtucket in the seventh inning. Lavarnway, who has hit a combined 30 homers and 85 RBI in 55 games in Double-A Portland and 55 games in Triple-A Pawtucket, was in the middle of a 2-for-26 stretch and 5 for his last 40 (.125). The hope is he can infuse some power in a lethargic lineup the past three days.

"He's gonna DH tonight. That's probably what he's gonna be doing. We have enough catching. We can use his bat," Francona said. "Tremendous hitter, especially for power in Double A and then carrying over into Triple-A. He's worked so hard with his catching that I think he's actually turned into an average catcher. That's where he has some work to do. You may not see him catch here, but hopefully he'll hit a few home runs."

Lavarnway said he's taken a "middle of the field approach" to hitting this season, trying to hit the gaps and not necessarily aiming to hit homers. Scouts who watch him are pretty universal in their assessment that he is a legitimate major league power hitter. The only issue is how well he'll catch. In many ways he's similar to the Yankees' Jesus Montero, but he appears to have more power.

Lavarnway said when he flew out this morning he hadn't been told definitively whether he was on the roster and didn't find that out until 1 p.m. when he landed.

"I tried to keep my head out of the roster down here. I didn't want to get ahead of myself too much. When Arnie (Beyeler, the Pawtucket manager) gave me the word, it was the first I'd heard about it," he said. He admitted that, "It was bad on the plane. Knots in my stomach. Now that I'm here, it's back to business. The routine of the day will help me get back into it."

While Lavarnway said he has a "passion for catching" and looked forward to working with catching coach Gary Tuck again. He worked with him in spring training and seemed to improve quite a bit. Now he gets to work with Tuck and be around Jason Varitek.

Lavarnway said he didn't work too much with Boston's starting pitchers in spring training, but did get to catch bullpens with some of the relievers.

Asked about being a DH, he said, "I just want to be in the lineup, help the team win."

A product of Yale University, Lavarnway said his family, which is from the Los Angeles area, won't be able to make it for his debut. He said he's received numerous texts from old friends, including Florida's Brett Hayes, his offseason workout mate, on the approach he should take in the big leagues.

"Basically they tell me it's the same game and just keep doing what got you here," he said.

Other news:

Francona said Youkilis was examined last night and "structurally he came out pretty sound. He was going to have an injection. They may have already done it. It takes some time to let that recover. His body was so beat up anyway that this was the last straw. Put him over the edge. Hopefully we can get him back and feeling like he can be Youkilis. After the game yesterday it was obvious he needed to get checked."

On Marco Scutaro: Francona said Scutaro reported that his back felt better.

On David Ortiz: "Until he gets out of that boot, we probably won't know a whole lot," Francona said.

On losing both Youkilis and Ortiz, Francona said, "You lose one it's a big deal and you lose both, it doesn't help. If our challenge is not to let it affect us winning games, that's what we'll do. Whether you have Pedey at cleanup or Jed (Lowrie) up to second, who ever plays we need to win. That's the whole idea."

On Carl Crawford's slump: "Little bit late on his set-up. Just not getting the pitches he has," Francona said.

On J.D. Drew: "JD will hit outside today and hopefully next couple of days we'll re-evaluate him," Francona said..

On how he'll use Mike Aviles and Jed Lowrie: "Aviles a little quicker at shortstop and Jed's best position is third base. Jed will play some short as well," Francona said.

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