Bruins

Lavarnway looks to take next step during off-season

873463.jpg

Lavarnway looks to take next step during off-season

BOSTON Before he left for his home in Colorado, Ryan Lavarnway met with Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington at the end of the season.

Ben just said that I was part of the plan, Lavarnway said. And that I needed to finish taking that last step and be a full-time big leaguer. And he said he didnt think that necessarily had to take placeby playing but by knowing.

So, Lavarnway wasnt too concerned when the Sox signed David Ross last month.

I have no comment. I dont know, Lavarnway said. "I haven't talked to anyone about it. You never know what's going to happen as far as the winter meetings. This season, the final roster is still so far away, that you don't know whats going to happen.

Ross is a great player. He brings a very high level of character to the clubhouse. They obviously think that he can help us or they wouldnt have signed him. So if he can help us, then I'm glad to have him."

The Sox now have three catchers on the projected 25-man roster, with Lavarnway, Ross, and Jarrod Saltalamacchia (and a potential fourth with the Monday addition of Mike Napoli, who will primarily play first base but could also be called upon to catch). The abundance of backstops has led to speculation of either a trade or the possibility of Lavarnway beginning the season with Triple-A Pawtucket. Lavarnway isnt worried about it, though.

"I have no control over it at all at this point, he said. So I don't think about it."

He hasnt talked to Cherington or new manager John Farrell about that speculation.

They havent told me anything that the media havent told me inyour articles, Lavarnway said. So I dont know anything more thanyou guys do at this point.

Lavarnway, 25, is one of the Sox most highly regarded young players. Between Boston and Triple-A Pawtucket, he caught a career-high 108 games in 2012, 28 (25 starts) with the Sox. He excelled with Pawtucket, batting .295 with eight home runs, 43 RBI, slugging .439, with a .376 on-base percentage in 83 games. He was the starting catcher on the International League All-Star team, also being named a post-season All-Star, and was chosen by IL managers as the leagues best defensive catcher.

Will a return to Triple-A help his development, or has he progressed beyond that?

Well, Im not a talent scout, he said. I feel prepared. But I trust Ben. Whatever he feels I need to do, Ill do.

I think theres a difference between playing well in Triple-A and being ready for the majors. And I feel Im ready to make the transition. But Ben is in charge and I respect his decisions."

With the Sox last season, he threw out three of 31 base-stealers, while making only two errors behind the plate. Lavarnway struggled offensively, though, at the major league level. He hit just .157 (24-for-153), with just 10 extra-base hits, two home runs, 12 RBI, a .211OBP, and .248 SLG.

"I wasn't good, Lavarnway acknowledged. I wasn't myself. I'm better than that and I know it and Ive got to show it.

Perhaps the decline in offense can be attributable to the increase in his workload. At 108, last season marked a dramatic increase in the number of games behind the plate. In 2011, between Boston and Pawtucket, he caught 70 games. In 2011, it was just 53.

Probably, Lavarnway said. The way that I hit its a balance between being aggressive and being patient. And if the balance is off, then its off. And it was off.

Going into last year the main goal was to catch 100 games. And I would do things differently this year going in. I lightened the load in my workouts on my lower body workouts, because of the load my legs were taking in the games. And I felt like the strength of my legs suffered then. So I want to continue to lift heavy legs even though catching a lot next year. Ive been talking to new pitching coach Juan Nieves about what A.J. Pierzynski does because he catches a lot of games and he lifts every single day. So I think Im going to have more of that approach going into this next year, and hopefully stay stronger.

His current off-season workouts reflect that.Hes working with a new trainer near his Denver-area home slamming sledgehammers, flipping giant tires, dragging weighted sleds. Hell soon begin a running regimen at Red Rocks Park, a scenic outdoor amphitheater in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, 6,450 feet above sea level.

I wont promise Ill be faster, Lavarnway said. But my legs will be stronger.

Kenny Agostino looking forward to 'the right opportunity' with the Bruins

cp-bruins-agostino-092217.jpg

Kenny Agostino looking forward to 'the right opportunity' with the Bruins

BRIGHTON, Mass – It’s been a few different stints with a few different NHL teams for 25-year-old Kenny Agostino, so he knows the drill at this point in his pro hockey career. The Bruins signed Agostino as a free agent on July 1 after he led the AHL in scoring last season, and they gave him a one-way contract as a show of proof that he’d get his chances at the NHL level.

It didn’t happen immediately out of camp as Agostino was felled by a concussion for part of the preseason, but he’ll get his chance now with injuries and ineffectiveness creating an opening for him on the Black and Gold. Agostino should get a look as the left winger on the third line after lighting it up in Providence with two goals and seven points in his first three games with the P-Bruins, and he’s looking forward to seizing another chance at the NHL level after stints with the Flames and Blues. 

MORE BRUINS:

“I’ve been doing this a few years and I like to think I’ve developed my game outside of my offensive ability,” said the 6-foot-1, 200-pound Agostino, who had 24 goals and 83 points for the Chicago Wolves last season. “That’s kind of been my goal to become more of a complete player. I’m excited and looking forward to another opportunity and just want to make the most of it. I’m not looking past tonight.

“I was fortunate as a college guy to get my first pro experience at the NHL level in Calgary, but then you understand how difficult it is to establish yourself. You need a lot of different things. You need the right opportunity and you need to do well with it, so it makes you appreciate how great of an opportunity it is anytime you get to play in this league.”

Certainly, the Bruins are anxious to get a look at Agostino, and probably Peter Cehlarik at some point soon, and the lack of production from some of the NHL incumbents have fast-forwarded that process a little bit. Agostino will replace Ryan Spooner along the half-wall on the first power play unit, and perhaps he can add the kind of scoring touch in the bottom-6 that Matt Beleskey and Frank Vatrano haven’t been able to thus far.

“We know Kenny is going to start in Spooner’s power play spot, he’s done it before and he’s had some success at the lower levels when given that opportunity. Obviously he’ll play left behind [Brad] Marchand and [Jake] DeBrusk, probably on the third line spot,” said Cassidy. “He’s played with [Riley] Nash yesterday [at practice] so there’s a good chance he’ll play with him today.”

The Bruins certainly need a spark after limping out to a 2-3-0 start to the season in the first five games, so perhaps a hungry Agostino can do that while being given a legit chance to show what he can do by the Black and Gold. 

Tuukka Rask out indefinitely for Bruins with a concussion

Tuukka Rask out indefinitely for Bruins with a concussion

BRIGHTON, Mass – Tuukka Rask has been diagnosed with a concussion, and will be out indefinitely for the Bruins after getting trucked in Wednesday’s Bruins practice at Warrior Ice Arena.

The good news is that the 30-year-old Rask hasn’t previously dealt with concussion issues in his NHL career, but the bad news that it looked like a fairly serious concussion after Anders Bjork crashed into him during line rush drills at Bruins practice. It’s still unclear if Bjork caught an edge and crashed into Rask during drills, or if there was contact with another player that thrust the B’s rookie, who needed stitches on his chin as well, into the unsuspecting Bruins goalie for the rare violent collision during an off-day hockey practice. 

MORE BRUINS:

“It’s not really easy. Last year I had a couple of collisions and it doesn’t feel good,” said Anton Khudobin. “Sometimes you get run over in a game and you kind of expect that it’s coming, but in the practices maybe you’re not expecting it. I don’t know. It’s not fun.” 

Rask had to be helped off the ice by his teammates and was spaghetti-legged and unsteady on his feet as he made his way off the way, so it wouldn’t be unreasonable to expect him to miss 7-10 days at a minimum based on NHL concussion protocol. 

Clearly it’s a blow to the Bruins to lose their No. 1 goaltender while struggling to stabilize their game weeks into the regular season, and for Rask it continues a tough season where he’s off to a 1-3-0 start with a 3.30 goals against average and .882 save percentage behind a leaky defense. 

So Anton Khudobin will step in on Thursday night for Rask coming off a 29-save win over the Arizona Coyotes last weekend, and P-Bruins netminder Zane McIntyre will serve as Khudobin’s backup goalie on an emergency basis.

“You don’t want to see that, but at the same time we’ve got to keep moving forward and hopefully he’s going to get better soon,” said Khudobin. “I feel good. Camp was good and everything is fine, and I’ve started better than last year. My role is just day-to-day. Today is a game day and hopefully, you get a good result, and then tomorrow is another new day.”

It remains to be seen how quickly or slowly that Rask recovers from this concussion, but there is concern as more than a few NHL goalies have suffered from recurring issues once they start going down the path with concussion issues. 

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE