On Wednesday morning, to no one's surprise given both Red Sox catchers have survived spring training to this point with their health intact, Ryan Lavarnway was optioned to Pawtucket. He's had a rough spring, hitting all of .136/.188/.159 in 48 plate appearances despite facing opposition that, according to Baseball Reference's quality of competition rating, fell below the standards of the majors.
Even if Lavarnway had mashed, however, with Jarrod Saltalamacchia and David Ross in tow, there was no room for him in Boston. He still has work to do defensively even if you consider him a reliable catch-and-throw guy behind the plate at this point, and the fact his offense, save a mid-season outburst, was also underwhelming last year means he's not quite as ready as people might have believed heading into last year. He's hit .172/.230/.286 in 209 big-league plate appearances, and last year's .439 slugging at Triple-A sticks out as much, if not more, than his excellent season beforehand.
All is not lost with him yet, as he's just 25 years old, but he'll have to make some major improvements in 2013 if he expects to be taking the reins from Salty come 2014. That's why he's back in Pawtucket, where he can play on a schedule that constitutes every day for a backstop.
Lavarnway wasn't the only one who saw his roster situation clarified, as pitchers Anthony Carter and Jose De La Torre were reassigned to minor-league camp. Carter is 27 years old and pitched well in camp against Triple-A caliber competition. He's expected to serve as minor-league depth in the Pawtucket bullpen, and it's likely that you won't see him in the majors in 2013 unless something has gone very, very wrong on the field in Boston.
As for De La Torre, he might end up with a role with the Sox eventually. He's also 27, and has yet to pitch in the majors. However, he's been excellent at both Double- and Triple-A as a reliever in 130 combined games at the two levels, in major part because he keeps the ball on the ground. De La Torre has allowed just two homers in the last two years, and only 15 total in 339 professional innings.
He might be Boston's new Clayton Mortensen in a few ways. For one, he has options remaining, which will be significant if he's added to the 40-man at some point. Second, though, and most importantly, is the way he pitches. De La Torre doesn't have overpowering stuff, but he can generally throw what he does have where he wants to, and is able to catch batters off guard through that. It leads to batters being on top of his pitches and driving them into the ground, and also means strikeouts to hitters who weren't expecting a certain pitch on a certain count.
If you watched the World Baseball Classic, you got to see De La Torre do the above to some high-quality big-league hitters. De La Torre gave up a homer and three runs in his 5-2/3 innings, but he also struck out 12 against one walk in his six games. He's not a bullpen savior, by any means, but if he can shuttle back-and-forth between Pawtucket as necessary like Mortensen did last year, doing a good enough job when called upon, then he'll have value to the Red Sox bullpen beyond just his actual performance.