Red Sox could keep three catchers as spring training looms

Posted Jan. 11, 2013, at 6:49 p.m.
Catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia (39) could stay with the Boston Red Sox this season as the team has not traded him despite signing veteran catcher David Ross two months ago.
Ray Stubblebine | Reuters
Catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia (39) could stay with the Boston Red Sox this season as the team has not traded him despite signing veteran catcher David Ross two months ago.

Pitchers and catchers will report to spring training Feb. 10.

Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Ryan Lavarnway may be among them.

Two months ago, after the Boston Red Sox signed veteran backup catcher David Ross, it was widely presumed they would trade either Saltalamacchia or Lavarnway to address an area of greater need, namely starting pitching.

But no deal has been made, even as top free-agent catching options Russell Martin and A.J. Pierzynski came off the market, and one major-league source told the Boston Herald the Red Sox have indicated “no plans to move a catcher at this time.”

If the Sox don’t make a trade, Lavarnway likely will open the season at Triple-A, even though he has nothing left to prove offensively at that level and demonstrated improvement behind the plate last season. But the 25-year-old still can be sent to the minors without being exposed to waivers. He batted only .157 with two homers, 12 RBI and a .459 OPS in 153 at-bats after being called up last year.

Saltalamacchia, a 27-year-old switch-hitter, figured to have some trade value after hitting a career-high 25 homers last year. But while Lavarnway is under team control through 2018, Saltalamacchia is eligible for free agency after this season, which may be diminishing his market. He also struck out 139 times in 405 at-bats and posted a .288 on-base percentage last season, and he has a spotty reputation defensively.

Ross, who turns 36 in March, is regarded as a skilled defender and game-caller. But he profiles as a backup catcher, having not started more than 47 games in a season since 2007.

One possibility that has not yet been broached: Playing any of the catchers at a different position, specifically first base, where they have yet to finalize a contract with free agent target Mike Napoli.

Sox notebook

–-RHP Joel Hanrahan got his first look at Fenway Park on Jan. 8, touring the ballpark before meeting the media. Despite being a big-leaguer since 2007, the former National Leaguer counts Fenway as one of four AL parks he has never played in (Anaheim, Minnesota and Chicago are the others). Needless to say, that will change in April. “I thought this place was amazing,” Hanrahan said. “A lot bigger than I thought it was. Obviously, a ton of history here. I got to go up on the top of the Monster and see what it’s like from that angle. I know my wife is going to be begging me to sit out there one day. But it looked great. I got to go in the clubhouse for the first time and see where my new office is. I’m excited. It looks great.”

Hanrahan, acquired from the Pirates at Christmas for a package that included reliever Mark Melancon, can’t wait to feel the adrenaline of a Fenway crowd. “Any baseball fan wants this chance to play here,” he said. “They want a chance to play in that other place in New York. As a baseball player and a fan, you want to experience that, and I’m excited to get that feeling every day this year.”

• 1B Mike Napoli continues to be in a state of limbo. Napoli agreed to a three-year, $39 million contract with the Red Sox on Dec. 3, but concerns about the health of his hip revealed during a physical exam have held up the deal. In a radio appearance on WEEI on Jan. 10, GM Ben Cherington reiterated that the Red Sox are “still talking” to Napoli in an attempt to finalize a contract. As has been Cherington’s policy, he declined to offer specifics about the dialogue. It’s believed the Sox are trying to add language to the contract that would protect them against further injury to Napoli’s hip. But with few first base alternatives available and Napoli unlikely to get a better offer from another team, it remains probable that the contract will be signed, albeit in a revised form. “Until something’s done, you have to consider other options,” Cherington told WEEI. “We’ve had to do that, and we’ve continued to consider other ways to improve the team, whether it’s at first base or elsewhere. Thus far, we just haven’t found anything that made sense to us in the big picture.”

• RHP Javier Vazquez has been auditioning for teams during the Puerto Rican Winter League season, and the Red Sox are among his suitors. The Sox recently scouted back-to-back starts by the 36-year-old, who still is deciding whether to come out of retirement and pitch this season. Vazquez was impressive Jan. 9, allowing one run on six hits and one walk while striking out 10 in six innings. His winter ball manager, former Red Sox infielder Alex Cora, tweeted in Spanish that Vazquez’s fastball reached 95 mph. In five starts for Caguas, Vazquez has posted a 3.52 ERA, 30 strikeouts and only six walks in 23 innings. The Red Sox continue to seek depth for their rotation, although the intensity of their interest in Vazquez remains unclear, with one source telling the Boston Herald that the team is “just continuing to scout him.” Vazquez hasn’t pitched in the majors since 2011, when he made 32 starts and totaled a 3.69 ERA in 192 2/3 innings for the Marlins. He finished fourth in the NL Cy Young Award voting in 2009 with the Braves. During his 14-year career, Vazquez typically has fared far better in the National League. In 289 games for the Expos, Diamondbacks, Braves and Marlins, Vazquez has a 3.99 ERA and 1.232 WHIP. In 161 games for the White Sox and Yankees, he has a 4.65 ERA and 1.281 WHIP.

• 2B Dustin Pedroia and DH David Ortiz may not be available to play in the World Baseball Classic because of injuries suffered last season. The deadline to submit provisional WBC rosters is Jan. 16. Typically, MLB frowns upon teams dissuading their players from competing in the WBC unless they ended the previous season with injuries. That seemingly would eliminate Pedroia (thumb, pinky finger) and 3B Will Middlebrooks (broken right wrist) from consideration for the U.S. team, in addition to Ortiz (strained Achilles) for the Dominican Republic and LHP Franklin Morales (shoulder) for Venezuela. But several other Red Sox may draw interest from their countries, including RF Shane Victorino (U.S.), LHP Jon Lester (U.S.), RHP Clay Buchholz (U.S.), RHP Ryan Dempster (Canada) and LHP Felix Doubront (Venezuela).

Similar articles:

View stories by school

ADVERTISEMENT | Grow your business
ADVERTISEMENT | Grow your business