Jarrod Saltalamacchia not letting offseason uncertainty get in the way
|08.20.13 at 5:19 am ET|
SAN FRANCISCO – Jarrod Saltalamacchia is navigating through these unchartered waters pretty well.
For the first time in his career, the Red Sox catcher finds himself heading into the season’s final few months on the verge of entering into free agency. But fortunately for Saltalamacchia, the new dynamic has resulted in the kind of success he hadn’t previously uncovered.
“I’m not focusing on it,” said the catcher regarding his possible run through free agency. “I think going into spring training I wanted to get something done. I wanted to be set and be where I was at, but it didn’t happen so my focus is on the team and winning. I’ve always believed if you focus on the right things than everything else is going to take care of itself. If you play selfish and go out there for your own numbers … Ultimately I want to win. If we win I’m going to have a job playing baseball regardless, so I’m not going to focus on myself and my numbers. If I have to sacrifice an at-bat and take pitches because someone swung at a first pitch, so be it. That’s part of winning.
“I’m taking it as any other year. I definitely know in the back of my mind that this could be my last year here, so with the team we’ve got I want to win. I want to be part of this. It’s up to them. They haven’t approached me and they haven’t said anything. It’s not up to me. I don’t write the checks.”
Saltalmacchia has lived up to his words.
The catcher said he would focus on helping lead the Red Sox in a multitude of ways, and he has, with the Sox’ 7-0 win over the Giants on Monday night serving as the latest example.
Saltalamacchia not only notched his third multi-hit game in the catcher’s last five starts, but he helped guide Jon Lester to 8 1/3 innings of shutout ball. In games he has caught, the Red Sox are now 60-37. He has also caught the fourth-most games of any backstop in baseball, fending off a physical downturn to comeback with gusto in recent days.
“There was a stretch there I was getting kind of sore. When I got to Houston and Kansas City I was pretty beat,” said Saltalamacchia, who is slated to get Tuesday night off. “But I want to be in every single day. I’m not a guy who is going to take a day off.”
And another thing the 28-year-old promised was there would be no second-half slump, the kind of which introduced some skepticism regarding Saltalamacchia’s durability. After a hot start in the first few months of 2012, the catcher struggled to a .206 batting average and .682 OPS in the second half.
But, as he pointed out, the unappetizing stretch he experienced in the final few months of ’12 wasn’t when he was experiencing life as a full-time catcher. With David Ortiz out, and Ryan Lavarnway being groomed, the designated hitter spot was becoming Saltalamacchia’s uncomfortable home.
He said the position change was part of the problem. Evidently he was right.
“I don’t think it was like, ‘I told you so,’ because I would never look at it that way,” said Saltalamacchia, who has managed just a .209 batting average and .589 OPS as a DH throughout his career. “But I think it shows it’s not trial and error anymore, we’ve proven it. Regardless of what I’m doing at the plate, my job is to work with the pitcher and get them through the game.”
Also gone are the enormous things that could be found more times than not in ’12. It was one of the reasons he managed 25 homers, but also part of the problem. Now, clearing the fence isn’t so much the priority as is finding the gaps.
Saltalamacchia has 34 doubles, the most of any major league catcher. The total also positions him to take a run at the organization’s record for most doubles by a backstop for a single season. It’s a record currently shared by Carlton Fisk (’78) and Jason Varitek (’99), who each had 39.
“I’m not trying to do too much. I’m not trying to hit the ball out of the park,” Saltalamacchia said. “Not that I got caught up in that last year, but my swing was definitely more geared toward that. This year I’m not trying to do that as much.
“I’ve done a lot on my own. Just knowing myself a little better. The more time you have, the better you get, the more evolved you are. I’m just not trying to do too much, and that’s probably the biggest difference I’ve made.”
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