Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Ryan Lavarnway Poised for Spring Training Competition for Catching Job


Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Ryan Lavarnway Poised for Spring Training Competition for Catching JobEditor's
note: Didier Morais will review each position for the Red Sox for the 2013
season.

Through the
first half of the 2012 season, Jarrod Saltalamacchia had firmly established
himself as the Red Sox' starting catcher.

Entering
July, Saltalamacchia led the majors with 15 homers and .537 slugging
percentage. He made a case for the All-Star team, but was ultimately snubbed in
favor of Mike Napoli, Matt Wieters and Joe Mauer.

Following
the All-Star break, Saltalamacchia's numbers took a nosedive and his strikeouts
spiked. By the end of season, the 27-year-old was losing playing time to Ryan
Lavarnway
and had finished with 139 strikeouts in 405 at-bats.

It could be
a byproduct of Saltlamacchia getting tired down the stretch in the dog days of
August. The lack of rhythm from sitting behind Lavarnway certainly didn't help
his cause, either.

So where do
the Red Sox go from here? Do they stick with Saltalamacchia or start over with
Lavarnway?

Keep in mind
this was Saltalamacchia's first full season as a starting catcher in the
majors. Once a highly touted prospect, he received limited opportunities in
Atlanta and Texas until platooning with Jason Varitek in 2011.

In his first full
season at the helm, he showed power with 25 home runs, one shy of Carlton
Fisk
's franchise record in 1977. Saltalamacchia displayed a strong arm and
improved defense as well.

He's still
cultivating relationships with the pitching staff and working on his game
calling abilities.

Lavarnway,
meanwhile, struggled at the plate –– which was supposed to be his strong suit
–– in 46 games, hitting .157 with two home runs and 12 RBIs. Compare that to
2011, when he delivered two blasts and eight RBIs in 17 games.

Despite the
offensive struggles, the 25-year-old also showcased stronger defense in his
first full season as a backstop, a yearlong stint that combined his tenure in
Pawtucket and in the majors.

But there's
more work to be done in terms of gaining experience calling games for the
pitching staff.

Either way,
the Red Sox are in good position with the two alternatives. The new Red Sox skipper
will likely closely evaluate Saltalamacchia and Lavarnway next spring training,
so there's no definite answer.

But given
Saltalamacchia's defensive strides and first half offensive production in 2012, it seems likely he'll get the nod. That said, Lavarnway won't
be far behind.

Have a question for Didier Morais? Send it to him
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