Jonathan Van Every is a 30 year old outfielder who is going to be the underdog you are cheering for in Spring Training. Growing up outside Jackson, Mississippi his very first spoken word was ‘ball.’
He last played for the Boston Red Sox. How he got there is a wild ride. As you know, the Red Sox are a difficult organization to come through the ranks and earn a spot on the major league roster. Let alone sign a minor league free agent deal and do it. But Van Every did.
In record time.
Van Every is known for his powerful bat, but he also plays excellent defense. If only it wasn’t for crazy injuries….. hell, if it wasn’t for injuries, he would still be Red Sox property. The Red Sox surely didn’t intend for Van Every to walk away.
But that’s what he did. With a limp.
Van Every took five years to get out of A level ball, but since then has put up some nice power numbers in his long minor league career. (a part of over 700 minor league games) He was a Cleveland Indian prospect who signed a minor league free agent deal with Boston in December of 2007.
Van Every was 25 when he reached AA in 2005 and hit 27 HR, he ripped 15HR between AA and AAA in 2006, but only 12 HR in 2007. But in his first year with the Red Sox at Pawtucket he caught fire in 380 at-bats he slugged 26HR.
He was blocked in the Indians system, stuck far down on their prospect list, as their outfield consisted of Coco Crisp, Grady Sizemore, and Casey Blake. He felt he was a big leaguer. Boy was he right.
From a Jan2008 RedSoxNation.net interview after signing the FA deal:
“It was basically the best offer we had. They were willing to put me on the roster and give me an opportunity to contribute at the big league-level, and that’s what everyone wants. Every kid’s dream is to play in the big leagues. I felt this was the best fit for the situation I’m in, because there’s not a lot of outfield depth here at the centerfield spot.”
What a difference the organizational change did, he went from splitting time between AA Akron and AAA Buffalo to getting a call to play in Fenway Park.
He had four hits in seventeen at -bats for the Sox in 2008, but it was just enough to wet his appetite. (Sounds like Neil Walker )
Van Every had his mind set on making the Red Sox 2009 roster out of ST, but injuries sidelined the dream. 2009 was a wild ride for the smooth fielding left-hander. He sprained his right ankle in ST with the Sox. The injury cost him most of March and April.
In his first game back down at AAA with the PawSox, Van Every roamed CF again and he showed the fans and Boston management the ankle was fully healed when he hit a game-tying grand slam to key a dramatic PawSox victory.
Van Every got the call to return to Boston to replace the injured Rocco Baldelli. He played well, hitting .364 in 11 at-bats with a home run and three RBI to go along with two walks and five strikeouts.
Hell, he even pitched during a blowout loss to Tampa Bay. (In the video, newly signed Pirate Javier Lopez was banished to RF and Van Every sends him running into the gap. (Listen to the fans in this video)
His knee started causing him problems in late May. Boston placed him on the DL effective May 30 after he sprained it in a game. He returned June 9, but it didn’t take long for the injury to be aggravated and the Red Sox doctor recommended surgery at the end of June.
Van Every went in to have exploratory surgery to repair the damage to his left knee. He should have been out a month if it was a meniscal tear.
The damage was more extensive than anticipated, and a more significant operation was performed. An operation that would end his season.
On July 18, 2009 after the waiver period ran up, he was told by the Sox he was released. He was rehabbing the knee at the Red Sox facility in Florida and the Sox needed a roster spot for Jed Lowrie.
In a little over a month, Van Every went from being part of Red Sox lore to being on the street. We think it might have started his mind racing for an easier way to make a roster. Smart guy. Maybe, just maybe,… he is a smart guy with a gigantic chip on his shoulder in 37 days?
Surely, the odds are against Van Every in a crowded outfield that isn’t going to be getting thinner anytime soon. It will include John Raynor, a Rule 5 pick and Brandon Moss. Moss was even recently mentioned as a possible CF candidate as well. But Van Every was a 29th pick in 2000, he is certainly used to long odds. And he knows Moss too.
From the RedSox.net interview:
DL: You’ve played against Brandon Moss. How would you compare your game to his?
JVE: That’s a tough question. I took a hit away from him last year, and he was kind of mad at me for that, but maybe I’m a little more versatile? Did he play much center field last year? I guess we’re kind of similar, but I’ve played against him maybe 10 times a year, so it’s kind of hard to say. I do know that he has some big league experience now, and that’s where I’m trying to get. Mossy is a great player.
Pawtucket manager, Ron Johnson, said that Van Every expects to get a chance to compete for a major league roster spot in 2010.
“I just hope he gets healthy. He gets healthy, he’s a real good player,” Johnson said.