BOSTON — Jarrod Saltalamacchia has come a very long from when he was a young Texas Rangers catcher who not only had issues throwing to second base but also had difficulty throwing the baseball back to the pitcher.
Flash forward three years. The 28-year-old Saltalamacchia’s offensive power and improved defense is one reason the Red Sox are where they are right now.
“He’s become the captain on the field,” Red Sox backup catcher David Ross said.
That certainly means a lot coming from Ross, a terrific defensive catcher (much better behind the plate than Saltalamacchia) who is not only one of the most respected players in the Red Sox clubhouse but also respected league-wide.
Saltalamacchia and the Boston Red Sox will play Game 1 of the American League Championship Series at Fenway Park on Saturday. Boston finished off the rival Rays in a best-of-five ALDS with a 3-1 victory Tuesday.
Saltalamacchia, considered more of an offensive catcher, led all American League backstops with 40 doubles and 54 extra-base hits this regular season. His 40 doubles was a new Red Sox single-season record for a catcher. The previous record was shared by Carlton Fisk (39 in 1978) and Jason Varitek (39 in 1999).
“Salty,” as he is more commonly called, went 2 for 4 with a double, walk and run in Game 1 of the ALDS last Friday, his first ever postseason game. He became the third Red Sox ever to drive in at least three runs in a postseason debut. He went 3 for 10 in the series.
Saltalamacchia was traded to Boston at the 2010 non-waiver deadline. The Rangers had given up on the 2003 first-round draft pick whom they had acquired with four others exactly three years earlier from Atlanta in a trade that sent slugger Mark Teixeira to the Braves.
The catcher got in a minor car accident in June 2009 that resulted in debilitating symptoms. His top rib basically was pinching a nerve, resulting in a tingling numbness and sometimes no feeling in his throwing arm. His arm would feel fatigued after a couple of throws, but he continued to play through the symptoms until he couldn’t feel the baseball in his hand by mid-August.