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Friday, August 13, 2010
Saltalamacchia returning to Texas

By Gordon Edes
ESPNBoston.com

Jarrod Saltalamacchia had been talking with reporters for just a few minutes after his arrival in Toronto when someone asked him if he knew the Boston Red Sox were headed to Texas next.

"Is that where they go? Really?" he said with a smile that indicated he was well aware of the team's itinerary.

"I'm excited. I have some good friends over there. No bad blood whatsoever. I'm excited to go there and see those guys.

"At the same time I'm with a new team now. We want to win. That's our No. 1 focus. That's my focus."

When the Rangers traded slugger Mark Teixeira to the Atlanta Braves in a blockbuster trade-deadline deal in 2007, Saltalamacchia, Atlanta's No. 1 draft pick four years earlier, was billed as the prized piece they were receiving in return.

Most of the published accounts of the trade termed it "Saltalamacchia and other minor leaguers," and it was Saltalamacchia who instantly was thrust onto the big-league roster, splitting time with veteran catcher Gerald Laird. Only three weeks after his arrival, Saltalamacchia hit two home runs and drove in seven runs in the most one-sided rout in history, the Rangers' 30-3 annihilation of the Baltimore Orioles on Aug. 22, 2007.

After three seasons filled with injuries and unfulfilled promise, the Rangers cut ties with Saltalamcchia, even though he was their Opening Day catcher in each of the past two seasons, driving in the winning run in this year's opener.

The most valuable haul from the trade with the Braves, meanwhile have proven to be shortstop Elvis Andrus and closer Neftali Feliz, two stars in the making.

"[Saltalamacchia] was the name in the [Atlanta] deal," Rangers GM Jon Daniels told reporters after swapping the switch-hitting catcher to the Red Sox for two minor-leaguers, promising right-hander Ramon Mendez and left-handed hitting first baseman Chris McGuiness. "When we made the deal, part of the logic behind it was that we were getting five guys with big league ability. Sometimes you just get to a point where maybe the best thing for the club and the best thing for the player is to put them in a better situation. I think that's what we accomplished."

Saltalamacchia acknowledged what he called some "bad years" in Texas, and that it was "all on me." But he also said he welcomed the chance for a fresh start with the Red Sox. On his first day in uniform, he caught one inning as a fill-in for Victor Martinez in Boston's 10-1 rout of the Blue Jays on Wednesday night, then made his first start for the Red Sox in Thursday's 6-5 loss.

He had two doubles, one a bloop that fell in no-man's land in right field, the other a line shot into the corner, and might have had another except for a terrific defensive play by Jays third baseman Edwin Encarnacion.

He also threw out the first base-runner who attempted a steal, Toronto second baseman Aaron Hill, in the second inning. "That may have been our best time to second all season," manager Terry Francona said.

But in the ninth inning, pinch-runner DeWayne Wise stole second, and Saltalamacchia bounced his throw to the bag.

"I'd take that one back [catching Hill] and redo the one in the ninth, that's for sure," Saltalamacchia said. "I could have had him easily. I just kind of rushed it. Bad throw."

Wise would eventually come around and score as part of a four-run rally by the Jays.

"I was thrilled to play," Saltalamacchia said. "Frustrating to lose."

The Red Sox, according to research done on Baseball-Reference, are the first team ever to use three switch-hitting catchers in the same season; Saltalamacchia joins Martinez and Jason Varitek, who is currently on the disabled list.

Sox starter John Lackey, who took a 5-2 lead into the ninth but was lifted after giving up a home run to Jose Bautista to open the inning, said he found Saltalamcchia easy to work with.

"There were a lot of shakes out there -- he calls his own game," said Saltalamacchia, who met with Lackey and went over his approach before the game.

"I felt comfortable behind the plate. I just have some extra work to do."

There is some question regarding how much he will play in Texas. Francona said he expects Mike Lowell to be in the lineup Friday and Saturday, which would mean Martinez will be doing the catching. But Sunday afternoon is a possibility.

Gordon Edes is ESPNBoston.com's Red Sox reporter. He has covered the Red Sox for 12 years and has reported on baseball for 25 years. Ask a question for his next mailbag here.