Friday, July 20, 2012
Slumping Salty sits, then K's to end game
By Gordon Edes
BOSTON -- A few notes to get you through the night:
• Kelly Shoppach started his third straight game behind the plate, the first time this season that has happened. All three of those games have been against lefties (Pedro Hernandez, Jose Quintana, Aaron Laffey), against whom Shoppach has gotten the majority of his playing time. But that's only part of the reason Shoppach was catching Friday night.
Jarrod Saltalamacchia started the game on the bench, then entered in the ninth inning as a pinch hitter for DH Pedro Ciriaco. Saltalamacchia struck out to end the game, as the Sox lost to the Blue Jays, 6-1. He remains mired in a horrific slump, his average dropping from .264 on June 21 to its current .228, a stretch in which he is batting just .132 (9-for-68) in his past 19 games, his only extra-base hits the four home runs he has hit. He has struck out 31 times in 68 at-bats in that span, and it has gotten worse of late: In his past nine games, Saltalamacchia has struck out 19 times in 30 at-bats, including 4 games of 3 or more strikeouts.
Asked the reasons for Saltalamacchia's slump before Friday's game, manager Bobby Valentine said: "Tough pitches, and swinging at some pitches that really weren't hittable. I think he will be a little more selective next time he gets out there and hit them the way he can.
"He's also a switch-hitter so he has a lot on his plate -- working on both sides of the plate, working with the pitching staff, and taking real personal responsibility when things don't go well. The one thing Salty has not shied away from is that idea that he is really responsible for everything that goes on out there with this pitching staff. I think that's a burden as much as anything. It's his first year doing it full-time and I think he is figuring it out."
• Closer Andrew Bailey took another step closer to returning Friday, throwing a bullpen. He's scheduled to throw another on Sunday and may face hitters in batting practice Wednesday in Texas, Valentine said.
"I don't think he has a health issue to deal with any longer,'' Valentine said of Bailey, who had thumb surgery in the spring then experienced a recurrence of the forearm strain that sidelined him for nearly two months last season in Oakland. "He now just has conditioning, a pitch buildup, and a competition challenge ahead of him.
• Classic negative Boston media moment: The first question Valentine was asked at Friday's pregame session came from WBZ's Jonny Miller, who wondered if Valentine was worried that one of his players could have gotten hurt during Thursday's walk-off celebration. Miller mentioned Kendrys Morales of the Angels, who fractured his leg during a similar celebration a couple of years ago.
Nonetheless, Valentine did a double-take before doing some quick thinking. "The more practice you have in those celebrations, the better you get at it," Valentine said. "I believe in practice."