The Red Sox will break camp with 25 players heading north to Boston. We begin a daily look at each position on the club, from the projected starters to their backups, as well as every member of the coaching staff. Our latest installment examines bullpen coach Gary Tuck.
The camp counselor: When one of your best starting pitchers goes out of his way multiple times in the span of two weeks to give credit to the bullpen coach, you know that coach is doing something special.
That would be Josh Beckett talking about Gary Tuck, the Red Sox bullpen coach and catching instructor extraordinaire. When asked in different ways about the progress of Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Beckett has directed his praise not only for the team's new starting catcher but also at Tuck, whose position usually receives little or none of it in the game of baseball.
"He's got the best catching instructor in the world," Beckett said of Saltalamacchia, whose first offseason and spring training with the club has put him through what is known as "Camp Tuck," an intense and unique regimen that has primed the organization's catchers in every way imaginable.
Saltalamacchia went through rigorous work with Tuck all offseason. Although he is only 25 and being charged with handling one of the best staffs in baseball, Saltalamacchia has been hailed in camp as a leader in the vein of his partner and now backup Jason Varitek. Much of that has to do with Tuck's ability to prepare his backstops for the rigors of the position.
Bullpen coach is often a fluctuating position. Rarely do teams have the same man in that same role for long periods of time. Tuck is entering his fifth year doing the job in Boston and has become a fixture.
The 56-year-old Tuck, a catcher in Montreal's system as a player, served as the catching instructor on two occasions with the New York Yankees, first from 1997-99 – when the Yanks won two World Series — and then again in 2003-04.
Tuck was Joe Girardi's bench coach in Florida in 2006, helping Girardi win National League Manager of the Year. He has also spent several years as a coach and manager in the minor leagues, winning Southern League Manager of the Year honors back in 1986 when he led Double-A Columbus to a title.
Certainly, "Tuckster," as he is called by Red Sox manager Terry Francona, has been involved in several roles and on several teams that have achieved glory, in no small part due to his contributions. Just ask Josh Beckett and everyone else who has heaped praise on Boston's bullpen coach.
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