Jarrod Saltalamacchia never batted cleanup in his career. For the majority of the 2012 season, the Red Sox catcher alternated all over the second half of the lineup, hitting as high as fifth and sometimes plummeting down to ninth.
But Red Sox skipper Bobby Valentine took the calculated risk in Saturday's 4-3 victory over the Cubs. With Adrian Gonzalez and Kevin Youkilis mired in slumps — Youkilis entered hitting .111 for the month of June — Saltalamacchia was offered a shot to reinvigorate the offense.
And Saltalamacchia accepted the challenge, rewarding Valentine for his faith while going 2-for-3 with a homer, a double and two RBIs to key the victory. If David Ortiz didn't get thrown out at home in the first, the catcher would've totaled a third RBI.
It was another example of some of Valentine's creative ideas. Heading into the season, the notion of Saltalamacchia hitting cleanup — never mind executing to precision — would have been laughable.
"Sometimes crazy times call for crazy measures," Valentine told reporters in Chicago.
At this time in the season, the uncharacteristic move was exactly what the doctor ordered for the Red Sox. In addition to posting strong numbers, Saltalamacchia provided strong at-bats, which included drawing a walk.
And Saltalamacchia's performance continues to validate his All-Star bid. After launching a two-run blast in the third, the catcher has tallied 12 homers and 32 RBIs to go along with a .254 batting average.
There were gambles involved in the decision to start Saltalamacchia at cleanup in this one. Like Youkilis, Gonzalez and Dustin Pedroia, Saltalamacchia was slumping at the plate heading into Saturday's game, batting just .161 (5-for-31).
With the pressure of the cleanup spot, Saltalamacchia delivered with a towering shot that went deep into Wrigley's right field. As a result, he now leads all catchers in the majors in home runs and his .835 OPS rates high in the American League.