Two months ago, Red Sox icon Carlton Fisk tossed the ceremonial first pitch to Saltalamacchia in a celebration of Fenway Park's 100th anniversary. That night, Saltalamacchia went on to launch a walk-off home run to ice the victory.
During Saturday's 7-3 defeat the Red Sox catcher delivered once again. Shortly after the Red Sox honored ex-captain Jason Varitek in a pregame ceremony, Saltalamacchia clubbed a three-run shot in his first at-bat.
"Men on second and third, no outs, you’re trying to get the ball in the air, trying to score those guys," Saltalamacchia said. "[Blue Jays starter Carlos Villanueva] left a slider up that I was able to do some damage with and that’s it."
Despite the loss, Saltalamacchia downplayed the magnitude of the blast. Entering Saturday's game, the catcher was mired in one of the worst slumps of the season, going 1-for-25 in his previous eight contests.
Publicly, Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine insisted he played backup catcher Kelly Shoppach over the past three games to capitalize against lefty starters. But there's some thought that it was attributed to Saltalamacchia's struggles at the plate.
Overcoming those obstacles is exactly what Varitek advised Saltalamacchia about heading into this season. Like a true student of the game, Saltalamacchia showed that he was capable of shedding his struggles.
"[Varitek] was really the first person that kind of built my confidence up again," Saltalamacchia said. "Him and [Gary] Tuck both. Those two guys together and in my corner and really rooting for me, it really felt good."
During the brief respite, Saltalamacchia started his pregame batting practice sessions earlier than usual. And in this contest, he watched his extra work result in his 18th home run of the season.
"Just what the doctor ordered for Salty and it came with two strikes," Valentine said of Saltalamacchia's ability to snap his drought. "And he laid off a tough pitch down in the zone. It was good.''
Saltalamacchia's 18 round-trippers are the most in a season for a Red Sox catcher since Varitek belted 22 in 2005. And even Varitek raved about Saltalamacchia's newfound power surge after the festivities.
"The offensive recognition gave him recognition for something that he was doing superbly behind the plate, but those aren't statistics," Varitek said. "Those aren't things that allow people to hold onto."
The protégé is making his mentor proud.
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