The Red Sox have a need for a left-handed complement to Mike Napoli at first base. They also are heading into spring training with three catchers – Jarrod Saltalmacchia, David Ross and Ryan Lavarnway – who are all at points in their career which would suggest they would each be earning spots on the major league roster.
So, where does that leave the starter of a season ago, Saltalmacchia?
He is heading into what would be perceived as the prime of his career at 27-years-old, and will become eligible for free agency following the upcoming season. Saltalamacchia is also fresh off showing the kind of power (25 homers) most teams drool over when trying to lock in backstops.
According to Saltalmacchia, little has changed.
At no point this offseason has he been asked to break out a first baseman’s glove for spring training. “I haven’t had any conversations about first base,” he said by phone from his Florida home.
Catching, he reiterates, is still his thing.
“When I catch, that’s when I play my best,” said Saltalamacchia, who started a career-high 95 games at catcher in ’12.“I’ve learned that about myself. I’m a better player when I catch, and catch on a regular basis. I think that’s something a lot of people learned last year.”
Saltalmacchia did hit all but two of his home runs while catching, finishing with an OPS .143 higher (.755-.612) catching than his 47 plate appearances as a designated hitter. It was DH he spent quite a bit more time at in the final month or so, with Lavarnway getting to 15 September starts at backstop, compared to Saltalmacchia’s 11.
The discussions he has had with Red Sox manager John Farrell over the past few months, in fact, have done nothing to dissuade the switch-hitter from believing Saltalmacchia won’t get further opportunities to prove his theory regarding production in relation to playing time.
“I’ve had a few conversations with Farrell and every conversation is great,” Saltalmacchia said. “He told me, ‘Listen, we signed Ross to complement you. You’re going to get right-handed at-bats.’ Stuff like that. I’ve been happy with it. I’m just looking going into spring training having already gone through the mental grind of the game, so it’s just best to go out there and let your play show for itself. You can’t control what the manager does. We have to go out there, and if the manager says, ‘You’re going to play one day this week and get two at-bats,’ that one day and those two at-bats have to be the best they possibly can be. I just have to be prepared at the max level.”
Although Lavarnway could very well enter the playing time equation, he does still hold an option, allowing the Red Sox the flexibility of returning the righy hitter to the minor leagues to start the season.
The challenge in identifying plate appearances for last season’s starter comes primarily when looking at Ross’ success – and Saltalamacchia’s struggles — against left-handed pitching.
The dynamic may not be all that different than when the right-handed hitting Kelly Shoppach resided on the roster. Although there was some grumbling from Shoppach regarding playing time, the situation seemed to fit Saltalamacchia, who just missed out on making the American League All-Star team after having totaled an .807 with 17 homers in the first half.
But while Saltalamacchia would catch 472 2/3 innings in the season’s first three months, he served as the Sox’ backstop for just 353 2/3 frames in the final three. Despite the role change (which was pushed along by a combination of David Ortiz’ injury and the team’s desire to see more of Lavarnway), Saltlamacchia felt like the ’12 experience was still a big step in the right direction.
“A lot of times I forget where I was at two or three years ago, and a lot of people forget that, as well,” he said. “Just physically and mentally, what your body goes through, nobody understands your body is really, really tired and you have to depend on skill. But I always felt differently with myself where I felt as the year goes on I get better and better and my body gets used to it. Last year splitting time and really DHing in the last couple months of the season, it was tough. I had to learn on the go again.”
Greg and Chris talk with Mike Reiss from ESPN Boston in hour 2 of NFL Sunday to discuss a variety of offseason happenings with the Pats and throughout the league. Greg and Chris also get into the NFL Draft and where Mariota and Winston will go.
Mike Reiss calls the guys to talk about the offseason news for the Pats. He talks about the Pats/Jets tampoering fiasco, free agency, where he sees Ridley and Connolly ending up, if the Patriots would be interested in Reggie Wayne and more.
In the first hour of the show, Greg and Chris discuss the news coming out of the owners' meetings this week and rule changes. Belichick's blow-up over the league not wanting to spend on endzone cameras was well documented and the guys react. They also talk about the Jets ridiculous tampering charges, free agents still lingering out there, where Stevan Ridley will land and the RB position in New England. Dickerson and Price briefly discuss the adventures of Tom Brady before being joined by WEEI.com's Mike Petraglia to talk all things Pats in the offseason.
Brow Buff's Sam Packard and Ben Kichen break down Marcus Smart's unfortunate ball tap, debate leadership in the Celtics locker room, and rehash the great Kevin Love to Boston rumors.
Flannery joins Mut to break down the Isaiah Thomas trade to Boston and what it means for the Celtics this season and in the future. Paul also chats with Mut about the other deals that happened at the NBA's trading deadline
We talk to Chris Mannix from SI to break down the C's acquisition of Isaiah Thomas and the crazy trade deadline in the rest of the NBA.
Joe and Alex talked with the Sox AGM about the state of the team as Opening Day approaches.
Mut, Tomase, and Bradford kick things off talking about Shane Victorino taking offense to people reading into some comments he made about trading for Cole Hamels. They also discuss Blake Swihart and how soon he could be up if Christian Vazquez starts the season on the DL.
Joe Kelly joined the Hot Stove show where he talked about being ready for his next spring training start after a biceps ailment forced him out of his last outing, he talks about his NCAA brackets and how teammate Wade Miley has a perfect bracket still.
Peter Chiarelli joined the Sunday Skate crew to talk about the Bruins playoff push heading into the final handful of games of the regular season. Chiarelli talked about avoiding some of the overly negative feedback he gets while realizing that the team does have real issues. He discusses what went down at the trade deadline and if he was happy with the outcome, Lucic having a down year and underperforming, the salary cap and if he considers it as big of an issue as it's been made out to be and what the future holds for the team.
It's a big hour #2 for the Sunday Skate dudes - they talk about the B's defenseman and what the future looks like at that position, with both moves the team can make and younger guys in the AHL. They also get into the Bruins philosophy on bringing guys up and sending them back down and how players deal with that. Finally, the boys are joined by Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli to discuss EVERYTHING.
The Sunday Skate crew gets the show going discussing the Bruins big, impressive victory over the NY Rangers yesterday. What can you take from that game? According to LB - Lyndon Byers - who called the guys from the road, not a lot. LB drops a dime on what was going on with the Rangers yesterday. DJ and Joe discuss Claude's lines and groupings and the importance of Ryan Spooner. They also get into Lucic, his contributions this year and if he can turn things around.
The top stories of the day as recounted by Kirk Minihane.
The guys discussed the controversial Indiana law.
The guys opened the show by discussing the Presidents visit yesterday.
Michael Holley comes in for the crossover, and continues the discussion with Tim over what will happen if the Patriots face any type of punishment for the deflated footballs in the AFCCG.
With the Wells report seemingly wrapping up (we hope), Tim and Lou got to talking about possible fines and punishments the Patriots must face. It's possible that the Patriots will face a small fine, but should they take that laying down? The conversation brings out a little passion from BOTH sides.
Jackie Mac talks about the Celtics win over the Hornets last night and their chances of making the playoffs.
Dale, Michael and Jerry Thornton discuss Robert Kraft's testimony and the Hernandez trial overall as it continues to unfold.
We wrap up the day with the best in sound that you may have missed from throughout the day.
Dale, Michael and Jerry discuss 'Pasta' and his solid rookie year, and make a few statistical comparisons.
Chris Price joins Mut to talk about how Revis will heat up the Jets-Pats rivalry next season
Mut opens his show talking about the New York Jets filing tampering charges on the Patriots
Mikey, Mut, and Lucy are talking about all things New England sports, the Red Sox spring training, more Darrelle Revis and Jets talk, and some Bruins mixed in.
Will Noonan joins Chris in the studio to review Wrestlemania and Raw.
Dino, Gerry and Kirk talk about Kirk's massage and crap all over Sausage.
Ben and Adam finish the odyssey that is the history of Wrestlemania. Wrestlemanias 21-30 are discussed and analyzed.
The guys discussed the disgusting protests at the scene of Officer Moynihan's shooting.More from this show
The top stories of the day as recounted by Kirk Minihane.More from this show
We listen in on Adam Shefter's deflategate report on NFL Live on ESPN, and discuss when we can expect this whole mess to come to a head.More from this show