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November 24, 2012

Sox pitchers will enjoy throwing to new catcher Ross

(Continued)

LaValliere added that Ross, a right-handed batter with some occasional power, could produce at Fenway as a hitter, too.

The Red Sox, who signed Ross to a two-year deal totalling $6.2-million, certainly were in need of a catcher who puts the pitching staff’s statistics above his own offensive numbers.

Ross led all National League catchers with a 48 percent caught stealing percentage in 2009 and then threw out 15 of 34 (44 percent) last season.

But holding the running game in check isn’t the most important quality a catcher can possess. Jason Varitek threw out only 23 percent of base stealers during his career and Red Sox pitchers loved him.

More importance these days is placed on game-calling and receiving (blocking and framing pitches).

If you’re pitchers like throwing to you and they feel comfortable, then you’re doing your job.

In the 54 games Ross caught last year for Atlanta, his pitchers combined for a 3.59 ERA. His pitchers combined for a 3.43 in 2009, 3.15 in ‘10 and 3.11 in ‘11.

LaValliere said a catcher’s preparation needs to take into account the opposing offense and his starting pitcher.

”We kept a book — index cards on all the guys we were facing: their strengths, their tendencies,” said LaValliere, who runs a baseball training facility in Florida. “That gave you a general outline of what you wanted to do. You also should have had a good understanding of what your pitcher is capable of doing. And that would change from night to night. And that’s why you find pitchers and catchers don’t get along sometimes — because some catchers can’t vary from the program.”

LaValliere said probably 95 percent of the pitches he called ended up being thrown.

”There were a couple of guys who wanted to throw their game,” he said. “But for the most part, what I put down is what they threw. And they knew I was doing my job. They knew I was paying attention. They knew I cared about their ‘W’ or their ‘L’ the next day in the paper.”

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