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The lack of production from behind the plate

Posted by Peter Abraham, Globe Staff  May 11, 2011 02:30 PM

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The Red Sox were under no misconceptions about what Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Jason Varitek would provide offensively. But through 36 games it has been grim.

Here is how the Red Sox catchers compare with the rest of the American League:

Batting average: 13th (.187)

OPS: 13th (.506)

Runs: 12th (7)

Home runs: 14th (0)

RBIs: 13th (10)

Strikeouts: 1st (40)

Walks: 10th (9)

Outside of Minnesota, which lost Joe Mauer, the Red Sox have the least-productive catchers in the league. Saltytek is 23 of 123 with 0 home runs, 10 RBIs, 40 strikeouts, and four GIDPs.

Varitek has played far more than was anticipated, having started 15 of the 36 games. He has caught nearly 44 percent of the innings. It's fair to wonder if he can stay healthy at that pace given his history and the wear and tear on his body at the age of 40.

If the defense was top-notch, you could live with the lack of hitting. But that hasn't been the case. Toronto stole the winning run last night, Rajai Davis nabbing second on a pitchout to Varitek. Saltalamacchia also has had problems with his throwing, although his blocking has improved in recent weeks at least.

The worst part? There's no easy answer. Nick Cafardo wrote about free agent Bengie Molina today. But he looked broken down at the end of last season and didn't exactly tear it up (.249/.297/.326) when he did play.

A trade? Unless the Sox are willing to part with some blue-chip prospects, no team is going to give up a front-line catcher.

Tim Federowicz is hitting .273 for Double A Portland (.329 against righthanders) and is an excellent defensive catcher. Could the Sox get desperate enough to go that route? Mike McKenry, the catcher acquired from the Rockies in March, is hitting well of late for Pawtucket.

The expectations were modest for Saltalamacchia and Varitek. Right now, modest would be a huge improvement.

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