Catcher Ryan Lavarnway homered yet again on Thursday. He’s hitting .514 with seven homers in his last nine games for Triple-A Pawtucket.
Lavarnway, a 2008 sixth-round pick out of Yale, has been on a tear since the day the Red Sox traded Michael McKenry to to the Pirates to clear a spot for him on Pawtucket’s roster. He’s hit .377/.445/.746 with 12 doubles, 12 homers and 33 RBI in 34 games in the International League, and he’s up to 26 homers in 338 at-bats for the season overall.
This isn’t coming out of nowhere. Lavarnway hit .285/.367/.540 with 21 homers and 87 RBI at low Single-A Greenville in 2009 and .288/.393/.489 with 22 homers and 102 RBI between high-A Salem and Double-A Portland last season. Still, he wasn’t taken very seriously as a prospect because of his defensive issues. Lavarnway didn’t start catching until he was a sophomore at Yale, and most don’t believe he’ll stick behind the plate in the majors.
The Red Sox, for what it’s worth, continue to claim otherwise, and it doesn’t appear to be a gimmick to enhance his trade value. But even if they’re wrong, with what Lavarnway has showed this year, there’s now some hope that he’ll be able to make it in the majors as a first baseman or designated hitter. The 24-year-old is tied for fourth in the minors in homers, even though he’s played in pitcher’s leagues. His Triple-A OPS is 1.191. The next highest mark for anyone to get 100 at-bats in the International League this year is Trevor Plouffe’s 1.019.
It doesn’t sound like there are any plans for the Red Sox to make room for him at the major league level. The duo of Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Jason Varitek has been very good since an awful April, and there’s really no room for Lavarnway to contribute elsewhere. Still, he is now in a position to step in at catcher or DH should Salty, Varitek or David Ortiz land on the DL. And he’ll definitely get a look in September, even if it’s just in a pinch-hitting role.
Giants ace left-hander Madison Bumgarner sustained a displaced fracture of the fifth metacarpal of his left hand on Friday. He’ll undergo surgery on Saturday to insert pins in his pinky knuckle, a procedure that could require a four- to six-week recovery period before he’s cleared to throw again. According to ESPN’s Buster Olney, Bumgarner’s total recovery time is expected to take 6-8 weeks. In a best-case scenario, the lefty said he should be able to pitch again before the All-Star break, but given the amount of time and care it’ll take for him to shoulder a full workload, it’s unclear whether he’ll be able to do so.
Bumgarner suffered the fracture during the third inning of Friday’s Cactus League game against the Royals. Whit Merrifield returned a line drive up the middle and the ball deflected off the top of Bumgarner’s pitching hand before bouncing into the infield. He chased after the ball but was unable to pick it up, and was immediately visited by manager Bruce Bochy and a team trainer before exiting the game.
The 28-year-old southpaw was gearing up for a massive comeback after losing significant playing time with an injury in 2017. During his tumultuous run with the Giants last year, he missed nearly three months on the disabled list after spraining his shoulder and bruising his ribs in a dirt bike accident. He finished the season with a 4-9 record in 17 starts and a 3.32 ERA (his first 3.00+ ERA since 2012), 1.6 BB/9 and 8.2 SO/9 over 111 innings. Without him, the Giants suffered as well; by season’s end, their pitching staff ranked seventh-worst in the National League with a cumulative 4.58 ERA and 10.1 fWAR.
This is the second massive injury the Giants’ rotation has sustained this week after right-hander Jeff Samardzija was diagnosed with a strained pectoral muscle on Thursday. “Horrible news for us,” Bochy told reporters after Friday’s game. “That’s all you can say about it. There’s nothing you can do but push on.”