I went to several Pawtucket Red Sox games this summer, a product of their being the top farm team for my favorite club, sitting half an hour up the road and offering a $7 general admission ticket.
I saw six games with the up-and-coming Ryan Lavarnway in the lineup, either behind the plate or as the designated hitter. Hit hit at least one home run in each of those games, including one with two yard shots and another that put the PawSox ahead in the eight inning of a game that saw them clinch the International League’s North division.
Needless to say, I quickly became a Ryan Lavarnway fan.
So I’ve been pulling for the guy to have success, though to think he’d have this kind of impact this quickly was not on my radar.
Last night, with Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Jason Varitek ailing, Lavarnway made his first major league start behind the plate, with the Red Sox tied in the Wild Card race with the Tampa Bay Rays. He looked strong defensively, he threw out an Oriole runner early and he looked confident, even displaying an edge that great catchers possess. Is that a vague intangible? Sure, but I’m calling it.
Most notably, Lavarnway hit two home runs, pushing the Sox to an 8-7 win and helping the team keep pace with the Rays. Those two homers, the first two of his major league career, have earned him the start tonight, in game no. 162.
I certainly didn’t think it would come to this a month ago. I didn’t think the catching prospect I’d been keenly watching would be in this position.
And I have a history of mildly rooting against Red Sox catching prospects, a defense mechanism related to my favorite player, Jason Varitek, and not wanting to see him lose his slot.
But the end comes for every player. and I can’t be too concerned about the Captain’s fate right now. Right now, the catcher of the future has become the catcher of the present, and the Sox need to win tonight. It would certainly help if Lavarnway had an encore performance.
If he does, he’ll have at least carved out a footnote in Red Sox history.
Most importantly, the season won’t end at Game no. 162. Hopefully.