EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

August 29, 2013

Put them in, coach

All friends Salty and Crush Davis needed was a chance

On Pro Baseball
Christopher Smith

---- — BOSTON — For friends Chris Davis and Jarrod Saltalamacchia, a big key to their success was getting to play every day.

That meant leaving Texas.

Davis, Baltimore’s slugging first baseman, leads the majors with 47 homers. He hit one last night against Boston. Saltalamacchia’s, Boston’s hairy starting catcher, entered last night tied for the Red Sox’ lead with 34 doubles.

Texas traded Saltalamacchia to Boston at the 2010 trade deadline and shipped Davis to Baltimore the day before the 2011 non-waiver deadline.

The change of scenery has worked wonders for both. Saltalamacchia has gotten better every year with the Sox and is someone Boston will look to retain as he is eligible for free agency this offseason. Davis, meanwhile, has become one of the game’s most dangerous power hitters and an MVP candidate. If he is able to maintain his home run lead, he will keep Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera from again hitting for the Triple Crown.

“I love Salty,” Davis said before yesterday’s game between Boston and Baltimore. “He was obviously a guy who I was close to when I was over there (in Texas) — a guy that I keep in contact with. And I was glad to see him get a chance to play every day over here. I think that was the biggest thing for both he and I.

“Neither one of us knew whether we were going to be in the starting lineup every day. When you know that, it takes a lot off your mind. You can go out there and just play. And he’s made the most of it as well as I have.”

Saltalamacchia said he is extremely proud of Davis.

“He was doing great in Triple-A and great in spring training and he’d get called up and get a shot and it was sporadic playing (time),” Saltalamacchia said. “He just never really got to get comfortable. He was kind of in the same situation I was in. So to see him come that far, I knew it was always there. He’s just such a good hitter.”

Salty’s surge

Saltalamacchia’s offensive numbers dipped significantly in the second half last year after a pretty good first half. He hit .190 combined during July, August and September.

This year has been a much different story. He entered last night batting .285 combined between July and August so far.

“I’m a better hitter when I catch,” said Saltalamacchia who added that being a DH occasionally last year wasn’t all that comfortable for him. “So that’s what I’m getting to do this year — I’m getting to catch and be involved in the game and my at-bats show.”

Saltalamacchia has started 95 games at catcher this year — the exact number of starts he made at the position all of last year and one fewer start than he made in 2011. Because he is playing much more, you’d think he would be wearing down physically. That is not the case.

“At the beginning of the year — to think he would lead our team in doubles — I don’t know if anyone would have projected that,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said. “At the same time, he’s hitting for a very good average and the extra-bases are clearly there. Catchers are somewhat like left-handed pitchers. They might mature a little bit later in their career. Salty’s put together a very strong year for us.”

Saltalamacchia is putting himself in very good position heading into free agency. The Red Sox should re-sign him considering they have no minor leaguers ready to replace him.

“He takes care of his body, he’s got a very good workout routine and I think prior to catching this number of games, he’s always asked for more,” Farrell said. “He’s clearly not only getting it but he’s getting better with more play and consistent reps behind the plate.”

Crush Davis‘ surge

Davis’ nickname is “Crush” — a play on the character “Crash” Davis of “Bull Durham” fame and the fact that he sure crushes the ball.

When Farrell was asked about Davis’ success, he didn’t seem too surprised by it, pointing to the first baseman’s power numbers in the minors.

Davis had 118 homers in six minor league seasons. He had 36 blasts in 2007, which he split between Single-A and Double-A.

Davis was traded to Baltimore with pitcher Tommy Hunter for current Red Sox closer Koji Uehara.

The first baseman got a chance to play right away for Baltimore and he hasn’t let up since. He has 81 homers in 300 games there. He had 33 last year.

“Going into the 2011 season I felt comfortable and confident with where I was at,” Davis said about his swing. “I thought I was going to get an opportunity in Texas to win the job and I (didn’t). It didn’t work out there. I got traded over here and I wanted to make the most of it. And I was able to.”

Follow Christopher Smith on Twitter @SmittyOnMLB