OAKLAND — Jarrod Saltalamacchia started seven of the first eight games this season. Today will mark the fifth time in the last nine games that Jason Varitek will start.
The Sox aren’t giving up on him. But clearly they’re edging away from him. His throwing has been erratic, he is hitting .194/.256/.222 and the pitchers have a 7.14 ERA when he is behind the plate. That is more their fault than his and we’re looking at a small sample size. But when Varitek has a 2.40 ERA, it makes you wonder.
There are two things that can happen here:
• Saltalamacchia gets better and the Sox move forward with him.
• The Sox give up their organizational man-crush on him and get another catcher.
But who? At 39, Varitek may not be suited to catching every day. And he’s hitting .063/167/.063. Luis Exposito and Mike McKenry are splitting the catching duties at Pawtucket. Neither one is hitting and McKenry is new to the organization.
The Portland catchers are Ryan Lavarnway and Tim Federowicz. Lavarnway is not advanced enough defensively. Federowicz is and he has been hitting well so far. But that would be asking a lot, to jump him to the majors.
What about a trade? The Sox have surplus in Mike Cameron and Marco Scutaro (or Jed Lowrie) on the major league roster. Lars Anderson and Josh Reddick are in AAA, blocked from advancing. There are also some prospects (Oscar Tejeda, for instance) who could sweeten a deal.
One alternative would be luring Bengie Molina out of retirement. But he’s not going to sign unless there’s a clearly defined role and playing time. Molina is only 36 but there’s a lot of mileage on those legs and he had a .623 OPS last season
Most teams do not entertain trades until after the draft. But as the Sox struggle to get to .500, their catching is a concern. If it doesn’t improve, something has to give.