Trade deadline addition Jarrod Saltalamacchia has been through both mental and physical issues this season, but Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein thinks a change of scenery for the 25-year-old catcher could be all he needs to get back on track.
Saltalamacchia, or Salty, is a switch-hitting former first-round pick who has had plenty of pressure to perform with both of his prior clubs — the Braves, and most recently, the Rangers.
Salty was coming off an injury-plagued 2009 season that was cut short thanks to shoulder surgery. After a rib was removed in the offseason to alleviate numbness in his throwing arm, Salty faced even more problems this summer — this time, they were mental.
Baseball players refer to Salty's problem as "the yips" — which is when players have trouble simply throwing the ball to their intended target. In his case, Saltalamacchia was struggling to throw the ball back to his pitcher. In one May contest, when the 6-foot-4, 235-pound backstop was catching for the Triple-A RedHAwks, 12
of his throws back to the pitcher landed either short of the mound or in
center field. He also had five errant throws in the first inning alone.
But things have turned around, partly thanks to visiting a sports psychologist.
"Right now I feel great," Saltalamacchia told ESPN.com. "Obviously I dealt with a lot of stuff at the beginning of the season. I feel confident I beat it and I'm ready to go. The past four months I've been playing well with no issues and I hope to continue to do that. I have never had health issues, so it's been a freak two years for me.
"All in all, I think it was a good thing that happened to me. I had to go through a lot of stuff to get here."
In his debut with the Red Sox franchise — for Triple-A Pawtucket — Salty went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts, a walk and one run scored against Durham on Monday.
Despite the uneventful first impression, Saltalamacchia is excited and ready to embark on his Red Sox career.
"I'm excited for a fresh start," Saltalamacchia said. "There's a lot to look forward to and I'm just excited to be here. I'm going to learn as much as I can, take this all in and use every opportunity I get.
"I'm excited to be in an organization where they want me. They gave up a lot to get me and I'm ready to do whatever they want me to do."