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.”
Shortly after the NFLRA released its statement demanding an apology from ESPN, Jim Quirk, the NFLRA's Executive Director, joined Mut to talk about the statement
WEEI's Chris Price joins Mut to talk about his experience of being in yesterday's Patriots championship parade, and which New England free agents could return to play for the Pats next season.
Super Bowl champ Vince Wilfork joins the show to talk about his feelings about winning the Super Bowl and what his future holds.
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.
Jessica Camerato of basketballinsiders.com joins the show to talk about Marcus Smart, the starting lineup, and trade deadline.
David Ortiz takes a few minutes to talk with Mut, Bradford, and Tomase about some of his new teammates, who Pablo Sandoval reminds him of, and the rules aimed at speeding up the game of baseball.
Mut, Bradford, and Tomase are talking Red Sox spring training. and talk with Red Sox DH David Ortiz about the rules aimed at speeding up the pace of the game
Catcher Blake Swihart, one of the Red Sox top-rated prospects, sits down with Lou to talk about Spring Training and his expectations for the upcoming season
DJ Bean joins Middays with MFB to talk everything going on with the struggling Bruins
Pierre McGuire of the NBC Sports Network joins the show to talk about the Bruins' continued struggles, and what the team needs to do to improve moving forward
Dale, Michael and Jerry Thornton talk with the great Jack Edwards of NESN fame to get his insight on the struggling Bruins as the chances to salvage this season continue to dwindle.
Mookie sat in with Dino, Gerry and Kirk to discuss the upcoming season and his preparation for playing in the outfield. Mookie also details one of his favorite hobbies, bowling.
All the latest stories brought to you by Kirk Minihane.
The guys kick off a free form Friday by looking at the competition in the outfield and a possible peace with Pete Abe.
On this weeks Aloha Friday, Tim apologizes to our producer Tom for not knowing who Leonard Nimoy was, Christian bashes Kanye West, and Joey makes amends for mistaking camel noises for llama noises
DJ Bean joins Middays with MFB to talk everything going on with the struggling Bruins
On this week's Fauria Five, Christian asks what the over/under on how many times Ortiz will be fined for stepping out of the batter's box this season, will the Bruins make the playoffs, will the Patriots use the franchise tag on Devin McCourty, where does Adrian Peterson play next year, and what color was the dress that went viral yesterday
We discuss the good week that was for the prosecution in the Aaron Hernancez murder trial with attorney and professor of law Michael McCann.
Dale and Michael discuss the plight of the Bruins as the trade deadline looms.
Dale and Michael go back and forth on the circumstances around Vandy coach Kevin Stallings verbally berating a player on national TV, and using harsh language like "I'll kill you"
Mikey, Mut, and Lenny are joined by the Rev girls, who are revealing the New Revolution uniform Tuesday at the House of Blues in Boston and talking about the Revs.
Mikey, Lenny, and Maggie talk Red Sox baseball with Red Sox Hall of Famer Bill Lee, who is in Florida and out of the snow that's perpetually burying the area.
Mikey gets a call from Kirk Minihane, who wants to clear the air with Mikey and get everything settled. It goes better than you think.
Boston University coach David Quinn joins WEEI’s Scott McLaughlin to discuss the Terriers’ Beanpot title and how he feels about his team as the postseason approaches. Quinn also discusses reports about NHL interest in goalie Matt O’Connor and briefly touches on a recent misstep by Jack Eichel.
After a wild trade deadline, Ben Kichen and Sam Packard breakdown the Celtics and the rest of the NBA. Then Sam yells at Ben about the use of analytics in basketball. Ben yells back.
Chris and Nate from Barstool Sports review the events of Fast Lane and Raw while discussing the potential card at Wrestlemania.
Big John can't take it anymore, JUST TALK ABOUT SPORTS!!!More from this show
Mookie sat in with Dino, Gerry and Kirk to discuss the upcoming season and his preparation for playing in the outfield. Mookie also details one of his favorite hobbies, bowling.More from this show
Dale, Michael and Jerry Thornton listen in as David Ortiz goes off to the media about the pace of game rule changes being put in place this year in Major League Baseball. They listen to David, discuss it among themselves, and talk with YOU.More from this show
All the latest headlines brought to you by Kirk Minihane.More from this show
Bogaerts sat down with Dino, Gerry and Kirk to talk about the upcoming season. He revealed that he lost his confidence last season after a tough start and is looking forward to settling into shortstop in the future.More from this show