Red Sox have a nice problem at catcher

Jarrod Saltalamacchia gives the Red Sox one of the most productive offensive catchers in MLB.
John Tlumacki/Globe Staff
Jarrod Saltalamacchia gives the Red Sox one of the most productive offensive catchers in MLB.

Last in our series of spring training roster breakdowns. Monday: Starting rotation. Tuesday: Relievers. Wednesday: Infielders. Thursday: Outfielders. Friday: Catchers and DHs.


Expected starter: Jarrod Saltalamacchia.

In the mix: David Ross, Ryan Lavarnway.


Prospects of note: Christian Vazquez.

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Organizational depth: Dan Butler.

Break glass in case of emergency: Mike Napoli.

Breakdown: Is Salty the starter or could he get traded? All we know for sure is that the Sox signed Ross with the intent of using him more than an average backup. They value his defense and leadership. Lavarnway, who made great strides defensively last season, is an organizational favorite. But the Sox could maintain their depth by sending him to Pawtucket. With Saltalamacchia a free agent after the season, that would be a prudent move. Butler and Vazquez were added to the 40-man roster in November. It’s unusual for a team to have five catchers on the 40-man, but that’s the situation for the moment.

What’s good: Salty belted 25 homers last season and drove in 59 runs. That made him one of the more productive catchers in the game ... Ross threw out 15 of 34 runners last season, and the Braves were 54-35 in games he started the last two seasons ... Lavarnway was voted the best defensive catcher in the International League last season. He hit .295/.376/.439 for the PawSox.


What’s bad: Saltalamacchia hit .222 with a .288 OBP last season. He struck out 139 times in 448 plate appearances ... Lavarnway struggled offensively (.157/.211/.248) in 166 major league plate appearances ... Napoli was initially expected to catch a few games, but the diagnosis of avascular necrosis in his hips could limit him to first base.

Theme song: “Supply And Demand” by The Hives.

Designated hitters

Expected starter: David Ortiz.

In the mix: Mauro Gomez.

Prospects of note: Juan Carlos Linares.


Organizational depth: Ryan Lavarnway.

Breakdown: Ortiz was given a lifetime achievement contract of two years and $26 million. But at 37, he remains the best DH in the game. Many teams are using the DH as a way to give position players time off from the field. But the Red Sox are sticking with a traditional slugger. Gomez, who profiles as a DH, could fill in if needed. The same is true of Lavarnway.

What’s good: After struggling in 2008-09 (.250/.348/.482), Ortiz went .296/.391/.558 over the last three seasons with 84 home runs. He has hit .325 with 17 home runs against lefthanders the last two seasons. Amidst all the chaos of the last two seasons, he has become the face of the franchise.

What’s bad: Ortiz strained his right Achilles’ tendon last July 16 and played only one game the rest of the season. He is expected to be at full speed for spring training. But Ortiz has to be cognizant of doing the proper stretching and getting enough treatment to avoid further injury.

Theme song: “A Legend In My Time” by Johnny Cash.