BALTIMORE, MD: Ryan Lavarnway #60 of the Boston Red Sox (R) celebrates with David Ortiz #34 after hitting a three RBI home run against the Baltimore Orioles during the fourth inning at Oriole Park at Camden Yards in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Lavarnway's bat has been mostly quiet at Pawtucket in 2012, but that's not entirely his own doing. He's catching more, as was his need before he becomes a big-league backstop for keeps, and the league was just outright refusing to give him anything he could put his bat on. Lavarnway has proven he can launch a fastball into neighboring Rhode Island towns, so pitchers were going to make him beat them on their secondary offerings. As Lavarnway himself said, via Brian McPherson at the beginning of the month:
"There's no situation where I feel like I'm guaranteed a certain pitch," he said. "There's not a time I feel like I can cheat. That's fine. I'm learning to battle through it."
It's sometimes forgotten that struggles and a dose of failure are oftentimes even better for a prospect than success. It gives them something to work back from, to adjust to, and to improve against. Lavarnway easily answered the challenge of minor-league heaters, and so, he found himself staring at curves and change-ups and sliders and such in 2012. It might have been problematic in terms of power early on, but his walk rate persisted as his eye sharpened, and in the last 10 games it's paid off: Lavarnway owns a .432/.500/.784 line with three of his five homers in that stretch.
His bat might have just awoken from its slumber, despite the paucity of fastballs coming at it, and while that's good news for Lavarnway and Boston's future, it's not such a welcome occurrence for the opposition.
Justin Germano, SP
Justin Germano has produced well-enough at Triple-A Pawtucket, but let's remember that he's 29 years old, in his 13th season in the minors, and in six years in the majors since 2004, has essentially been replacement level. Cast aside those dreams of Germano as rotation depth, as the command he features against minor-league hitters just doesn't work the same way in the bigs.
If anything, Germano is a potentially useful bullpen piece, but that's likely the extent of things. And, truth be told, this is the wrong organization to be in at the moment if your future is in the bullpen -- get in line behind Mark Melancon, Junichi Tazawa, Clayton Mortensen, and now, likely, the next player in this particular update.
Germano leans a bit flyball, doesn't miss a ton of bats, and while he occasionally has solid control, it isn't enough to compensate. He's the kind of pitcher the Twins might be tempted to try out as a starter, but with Boston, he's the kind of pitcher who is Brandon Duckworth's Triple-A teammate, or a reliever in an emergency. It's hard to see the Red Sox dusting off a 40-man roster spot for Germano, especially given the current crunch there.
Mark Prior, RP
Don't be too excited by 2-2/3 innings pitched by the former phenom. Prior is now 31 years old, and his stuff doesn't have quite the zip on it that it used to back when he was an up-and-coming star. While no one doubts his ability to get outs if he's on the mound, it's that little caveat descriptor tucked into the back-end of that clause that's the real question. Can Prior stay healthy? Given a billion universes, it's possible Prior will be healthy in at least one of them, but it's anyone's guess if this particular reality happens to exist on our level of the Tower, and we won't know for sure until we see it happen for ourselves.
Prior is one of the most-easily rooted for players in the game today, and with Daniel Nava already in the majors, it's no-contest that it's Prior who would make many fans thrilled were he to merit inclusion on the big-league roster. But, as stated above, there's a long line of relievers ahead of him, and even if he might cut in line of everyone but Melancon, Boston's bullpen has done well enough that it's no guarantee Prior does more than pitch in Pawtucket over the next couple of months. Of course, staying healthy long enough to be called up in September would be a victory in and of itself for Prior, who has had little luck doing just that for years now.