EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Sports

June 23, 2013

Sox face tough decision on Saltalamacchia

BOSTON — Jarrod Saltalamacchia is in his third season as the starting catcher for the Red Sox and has enjoyed his time here tremendously. But could his stay in Beantown be coming to an end?

The 28-year-old will be a free agent at the end of this season.

That brings up an important question: Is Saltalamacchia Boston’s answer at catcher for the next 3-4 years?

“My family loves it here and I love it here so I’d love to stay here,” Saltalamacchia told The Eagle-Tribune. “No, there’s been no talks or anything. Don’t know what’s going to happen. My focus has mainly been on the team and winning.”

Saltalamacchia has been a streaky hitter with an on-base percentage just below .300 with Boston.

His defense never has been considered stellar and he had thrown out just 18 percent of base stealers this year entering Friday.

But he does have value because he hits for power.

Last year, he belted 25 homers, the third most among major league catchers.

He entered Friday with eight homers, a .475 slugging percentage and .802 OPS in 198 at-bats.

And although it’s difficult to quantify, Saltalamacchia appears to be improved handling the pitching staff.

“I think even from the beginning of this year there has been more familiarity with the guys on the mound, what their capabilities are — and his ability to read swings has shown up in the pitch selection he’s used,” manager John Farrell said.

“He’s had obviously a couple good games where his throwing and transfer has been quick and efficient.

“He’s always had arm strength. But I think his overall game has taken a step forward.”

The club does have Blake Swihart (at Single-A Salem) and Christian Vazquez (at Double-A Portland) who have high ceilings defensively. Swihart also projects as a top offensive catcher. But neither will be ready to start on Opening Day 2014.

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