BOSTON — It’s easy to forget that Jarrod Saltalamacchia led the Red Sox in home runs last season. Then again, that forgetfulness sums up Salty’s presence within Boston’s potent lineup.
Saltalamacchia, who drilled two home runs in the Red Sox’ 10-5 victory over the Angels on Sunday, is one of the most gifted offensive catchers in baseball, yet his contributions often get overshadowed when Boston’s offense is rolling. It isn’t a sign of disrespect or a sign that Saltalamacchia’s efforts aren’t appreciated. It’s simply a matter of the 28-year-old doing his damage a little bit more quietly than some of the club’s other boppers.
“I think a few other guys are getting some of the notoriety offensively in what they’re doing, but he in some ways is quietly going along and putting up a strong year,” manager John Farrell said after Sunday’s win. “[His] average is better, [his] power’s still there. He continues to I think improve his overall handling of our [pitching] staff, and like I said, more quietly than some of the others have garnered, he’s doing a very good job.”
Saltalamacchia’s big effort on Sunday, in which he drove in four of Boston’s 10 runs, is just the latest example of the backstop doing damage at the plate. His average is up to .273, and his on-base percentage sits at .341. Those are both far better than his career marks, and it’s really an indication of his development as a hitter.
“He and Colby [hitting coach Greg Colbrunn], the work that they’ve done with trying to keep him in the middle of the field a little bit more rather than just solely looking to pull the ball, it’s enabled him to keep the bat in the zone longer,” Farrell said. “He’s got better plate coverage, more consistent coverage. There’s gonna be some swing and miss in there at times, but with the approach he’s locked in with right now, again you look at a guy in the six, seven hole with that kind of power threat, it speaks to what our lineup has and the ability to put up runs quickly.”
Saltalamacchia’s two-home run effort was the fourth of his big league career. The last time he went deep twice in a game was on April 26, 2012, against the Chicago White Sox. It’s clear that he’s a superior offensive player nowadays, though, especially against right-handers. Following his 2-for-4 game on Sunday, Saltalamacchia is hitting .318 (40-for-126) with seven home runs against righties.
Saltalamacchia is hitting .360 (9-for-25) overall in seven games this month — a stretch that now includes three long balls. When Salty is generating offense like that, it really magnifies how valuable the Red Sox’ catching duo has become, but both Saltalamacchia and David Ross have done an excellent job handling the team’s pitching staff as well.
“I think we’ve always viewed the catching position as a two-man tandem,” Farrell said. “Not even split in terms of games play, but we know it does take its toll on a guy physically, and we’re fortunate to have two very good guys who are handling our [pitching] staff. Both he and David Ross complement one another in their skills. We’re not looking to run Salty into the ground, and there will be times where David will even get a game against a right-handed starter as well. In the meantime, hopefully the production continues.”
If Saltalamacchia’s production continues, it will help pace the Red Sox’ potent offense — even if his contributions don’t grab headlines on a nightly basis.