Aug 6, 2013; Houston, TX, USA; Boston Red Sox catcher Ryan Lavarnway (20) chases a ball that gets away during the first inning against the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

With Ryan Lavarnway Not Cutting It, It’s Time To Give Dan Butler A Shot

If there is one thing that last night’s first inning debacle made clear, it’s that the Red Sox need a new backup catcher. Sure, Jarrod Saltalamacchia is going to get the majority of the playing time either way and it won’t be too long until David Ross is back. However, four passed balls are a statistic that should be covered over a month, not one inning. Catching a knuckleball is tough for any catcher, but Ryan Lavarnway has experience catching Steven Wright at Pawtucket and still could not cut it last night– evidence that it is time for a change.

Lavarnway has not been terrible offensively given his limited playing time, but his slash line of .250/.298/.365 is not impressive and his .259/.367/.388 slash line at Pawtucket does not give a ton of optimism to improve. However, it is his defense that has been the problem as FanGraphs ranks his defense as below average in nearly every way.

It is a shame it has come to this considering Lavarnway, once a highly-touted prospect, hit 32 home runs in the minors just two years ago. However, the Red Sox have a 26 year old catcher– Dan Butler– in Pawtucket that is well-regarded as a better defensive catcher and has hit quite a bit better in 2013. Butler has a .283/.380/.513 slash line this year and has been one of the hottest bats in the organization lately, with a .384 average since the start of July.

It is clear that a once productive catching tandem between Saltalamacchia and Ross has fallen because of the injury to Ross and thus Saltalamacchia’s fatigue. Not having the confidence to regularly play Lavarnway is not helping and plugging Butler in behind the plate might give the team a boost. Butler is projected as a backup catcher anyway, and he has served in that role before, so it would not hurt his development. Last night showed evidence that the Red Sox need a change and they have one presented to them in the minors.

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Tags: Boston Red Sox Dan Butler Ryan Lavarnway

  • Michael Macaulay-Birks

    The problem last night was on the mound, not behind the dish…. 1/2 game up on the very good Rays, and we’re running Steven Wright out there

    • Conor Duffy

      I agree that Wright should not have started last night. It was not entirely his fault and it was not entirely Lavarnway’s for that debacle. However, I do believe that Butler, who has been rated a plus defensive catcher, would be an upgrade at this point.

    • John Fahrer

      Wright earned himself a chance to start after two really good long relief outings where he saved the pen and got the wins.

      He only went the one inning. Who’s to say he doesn’t shut them down the rest of the way if he stays in? And the excellent Rays wound up losing 6-1 the D-Backs so we gained ground.

      Wouldn’t mind seeing what Butler can do, but it probably won’t be until September. Ross is on board for another season and the organization might like Christian Vazquez a little more. Might not be much of a future for him in the organization. Butler is one of several guys who might be trade candidates down the road.

      • Michael Macaulay-Birks

        agreed on the long relief….the game vs. the Mariners (I think) was great…