Ryan Lavarnway is long gone, now. Others may disagree, but I do not expect to see him back at McCoy this year. I may be wrong and I hope I am, selfishly. When Lavarnway is on the PawSox, we are a much better team. Someone needed to replace the “Whammer” on the Pawtucket roster and that someone is Matt Spring.
Spring was promoted from AA Portland. He’s only appeared in one game, but I was impressed with his defense. Spring was flopping all around home plate on Sunday afternoon, blocking every pitch thrown his way. Spring seems happy to be in Pawtucket in the thick of a playoff race. “It’s great to be on a winning team. I think it’s a great group of guys and they’ve been good to me so far. I’m just glad to be here.” Spring has swung a good bat in 2011 but realizes his defense is his “bread and butter”. “Defense is something I really pride myself on. It’s gotten me to this point in my career. This year, I’ve been hitting well, but my defense is something I take great pride in.”
Spring was in the Tampa Bay organization before he came to the Sox. He was asked to analyze the difference between the two organizations. “I can’t say a bad word about the Rays, but I really like the way they treat the players over here. They do a lot of little things for us, which makes life easier, but I really do like it here.”
Spring spent a couple of months in Portland before making the jump to Triple A. He enjoyed that, as well. “The coaching staff was great. So were my teammates. Getting to know different guys throughout the organization has been nice.”
Spring grew up in Arizona, but most of his childhood was spent rooting for a team a little further west, and north. “We didn’t have the DiamondBacks until I was about 10 or 11. I watched other teams at Spring Training, but I was a Mariners fan a little bit. I was an Alex Rodriguez fan, but that’s changed of late.” Spring admits he had the stance of Ken Griffey Jr. down pat as a wiffle ball playing lad in Arizona. He also didn’t have a “catching idol” growing up because he was not a backstop until relatively late in life. “It’s funny. I was a conversion guy in college. Never caught much as a boy or in high school. I pretty much learned on my own. I try to emulate guys like Molina or McCann who excel at offense and defense.”
Spring laughs about his evolution as a catcher. “It took me a few years. At first, I was more of a ‘Golden Retriever’ than a ‘Golden Receiver’. I’ve worked really hard. The catching guy at Tampa was really great. I’ve learned a lot too this year from ‘Eppy’ (Minor League Catching Coordinator, Chad Epperson). You just keep your ears open. The biggest help is the pitchers. learn what they want, what makes them comfortable. Essentially, we have to make them happy.”