That’s been the case for slugging prospect Ryan Lavarnway, who has done his job and then some this season. His outstanding campaign, together with Kevin Youkilis’ need to go on the disabled list with a sore back and the absence of David Ortiz, will give Lavarnway his first crack at the major leagues.
The Offensive Co-Player of the Year in the Red Sox organization last year, Lavarnway has exploded in 2011. He has played 55 games at both Double-A Portland and Triple-A Pawtucket, combining to hit .293 with 30 home runs and 85 RBIs.
Lavarnway will get the bulk of his at-bats for Boston as the designated hitter until Ortiz returns. While the roster move will have him linked with Youkilis, Lavarnway’s connection with Ortiz is what’s worth watching.
If by some chance Ortiz’s right heel bursitis becomes more of an issue than originally thought, Lavarnway’s audition could turn into a rather significant gig, and not just for 2011. The 24-year-old could make enough of an impression to join the big club in a full-time capacity next season, either as a replacement for Jason Varitek or as part of the DH mix if Ortiz does not re-sign with the Sox.
That’s putting the wagon before the horse, in a big way. However, every player gets their break at some point, and those breaks almost always involve injuries to established players like Youkilis and Ortiz. This could be the dawn of Lavarnway’s major league career.
In the immediate term, Lavarnway provides a fresh bat for a suddenly dormant lineup in need of a boost. The book on him will be limited, which should afford him some pitches to hit early in his tenure. He hammers lefties, sporting a .380 (19-for-50) average against them for the PawSox.
Boston has averaged fewer than four runs a game in August. It was held to three hits in each of its three games against Tampa Bay this week. Ortiz’s absence, as well as physical issues for Youkilis, Adrian Gonzalez and Marco Scutaro, left the lineup lacking a little punch against the Rays.
Although this experience will all be new to him, Lavarnway has the ability to provide a little punch. And if he does his job, as he has in the minors, it could turn into something greater.