THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING

He's found the range

Saltalamacchia has come a long way this season

By Michael Vega
Globe Staff / August 26, 2011

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ARLINGTON, Texas - When he came here for a season-opening set against the Rangers, his former team, Jarrod Saltalamacchia didn’t hide the fact he was pressing. Badly.

“My frame of mind was to try and get something started,’’ Saltalamacchia said of the three-game shellacking the Sox absorbed by a combined score of 26-11. “I knew we were a good team and I knew we were better than that. So, certainly, the frame of mind was to start swinging the bats and start pitching better and start playing defense.’’

As for himself? Saltalamacchia knew there would be better days to come at the plate and behind the plate.

“You definitely were pressing a little bit,’’ Saltalamacchia acknowledged after last night’s 6-0 shutout of the Rangers, as the Sox took the last three in this four-game series by a combined score of 30-7.

Last night, however, Saltalamacchia seemed in complete control as he handled Andrew Miller’s second start since his return to the rotation, and went 2 for 4 with a two-run homer off Rangers starter Alexi Ogando.

“It was a matter of slowing down,’’ said Saltalamacchia, who was 0 for 13 against his former team after the first game of this series, then went 4 for 11 with 3 RBIs, 2 runs, 2 doubles, and his 13th homer of the season. “I started getting a little more productive at the plate and it’s kind of where it’s been.’’

Saltalamacchia’s reversal of fortune didn’t go unnoticed by his former manager.

“We always thought Jarrod was a pretty good catcher,’’ Ron Washington said. “It’s just that he ended up in Boston. He’s maturing and he’s showing good qualities.’’

They weren’t as evident at the beginning of the season, when Saltalamacchia went 0 for 10 against the Rangers. After going 0 for 3 in a 4-0 loss to C.J. Wilson in the first game of this series on Monday, he broke out with a 2-for-4 effort in Tuesday’s 11-5 rout.

After taking Wednesday night off as Jason Varitek caught Josh Beckett, Saltalamacchia was back behind the plate last night and helped orchestrate Miller’s 6 1/3 scoreless innings.

He helped Miller exit the sixth, completing an inning-ending double play by throwing out Elvis Andrus on his attempt to steal second after Miller had struck out Josh Hamilton for the third time.

“Salty throwing the guy out made it a lot easier to get out of that inning,’’ Miller said.

But Saltalamacchia didn’t limit his contributions to that. He took Ogando deep to left in the fourth to help the Sox complete a 6-2 road trip.

“To win is great, period,’’ Saltalamacchia said. “But especially against these guys who basically handed it to us the first three games of the season. But we’re a different team. They’re still a great team and they’ve still got great pitching. When we’re healthy and we can play the game the right way, we’re pretty good.’’

Asked how he felt he improved as a catcher from the start of the season, Saltalamacchia replied, “I’m a little more experienced, I’m a little more comfortable with the pitching staff, I’m feeling better at the plate.’’

When he departed Rangers Ballpark last night, it was with a much better frame of mind.

“I’ve come a long way,’’ Saltalamacchia said. “But it’s all thanks to Tek and [catching instructor Gary] Tuck and the organization for giving me this opportunity and basically just believing in me.’’

Michael Vega can be reached at vega@globe.com.

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