Re: Time to Bench Salty
posted at 9/25/2012 8:51 AM EDT
“This is really my second full year of playing,” Saltalamacchia said. “I feel like I’m going to get better. I think I can hit for a better average, especially in RBI situations.
“With everything that has gone on, I’ve been more worried about the pitching and catching aspect of it than the hitting. I really had to focus on the catching.”
Saltalamacchia started 32 more games behind the plate than Jason Varitek in 2011. But Varitek’s retirement before this season changed the dynamics of how the Red Sox prepared their pitchers for games.
Varitek kept detailed records of opposing hitters and had a big influence on strategy. With Varitek gone, Saltalamacchia and the starting pitchers had to take a more active role in developing game plans.
At the same time, the Sox were getting adjusted to their third pitching coach in three years in Bob McClure, who took a largely hands-off approach. When McClure was fired in August, Randy Niemann took over.
The Sox have gone through 25 pitchers this season and used nine starters.
“Strenuous, to say the least,” Valentine said. “He’s put in all the extra work pregame. He works trying to get to know the idiosyncrasies of the pitchers. It’s a challenge. But I think he’s met the challenge more often than not.”
Said Saltalamacchia: “It has been tough. You have guys who are struggling and you try and figure it out for them and you want to keep the guys who are going well on track. There are a lot of nights I lay my head down and I can’t sleep because I’m thinking about it. It’s always something different.”
The challenge lately has been getting used to decreased playing time. With the Sox out of contention, the front office took the opportunity to see more of Lavarnway, a 25-year-old organizational favorite. He has started 33 of the last 49 games including 10 of the last 15.
“It’s not hard to get used to it,” Saltalamacchia said. “I understand it. It’s more difficult to get on the field and perform. Going back to catching once or twice a week is hard and I’m not a big fan of being the DH. But at least they want my bat in the lineup.”
Saltalamacchia is arbitration eligible for a second year. After making $2.5 million this season, he remains economical and provides better production than most catchers.
“I think his defense is fine. On par with the league, he’s fine,” Valentine said. “There are a lot of stolen bases on this team that Johnny Bench isn’t doing anything about.”
Saltalamacchia could return as the primary catcher, split time with Lavarnway, or be used as a trade chip. His hope is to return. -Globe