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"He's turned a big corner," manager Bobby Valentine said this week. "In the last couple of weeks, I've seen a player turn into an All-Star -- an absolute player who you can count on, who's got it. He's understands what's needed out of him and he's delivering it."
"Obviously, it feels great," [Saltalamacchia] said. "You play this game to be the best you can. The fact that some guys recognize that, guys with a lot of experience in this game, a lot of accomplishments in this game, to see what I've done, to see how hard I've worked to get where I'm at, for them to start putting me in that category feels great."
And for all that Saltalamacchia is producing at the plate, he has strayed little from the mantra practiced by Varitek for the better part of 14 seasons in Boston. Whether or not he remains this hot at the plate, a catcher's first priority is the care and feeding of his pitching staff.
"Talking with Jason about it last year, that comes from caring," he said. "You got to care about people. Everybody wants to win, but there's a process, and there's a process to me getting better, so I've got to have that same process with other people that they had with me.
"With my pitching staff, it's not going to be all of a sudden, 'Salty's been doing well, let's trust him, let's believe, let's do whatever he says.' No. it's a trust factor that goes on and on and carries, something I'm building up, and that comes from caring about somebody."
ESPN - Salty's fine seasoning
In a season full of surprises (both good and bad), Saltalamacchia's progress has been one of the most pleasant.
Last year, when the starting catcher's gig was officially his, he had flashes of greatness sandwiched between long stretches of mediocre play; which is a pretty much how his career has gone up to this point. With another year of experience under his belt, we all hoped that he'd take another step forward, but I'm not sure that anyone really knew what to expect of him coming into this season.
We at Ted's Army certainly didn't. Our projections were all over the place, ranging from Nick thinking he'd bat .273 with 19 home runs and 71 RBIs, to Scott thinking he'd be swinging Jose Iglesias' bat this season on his way to a .251 average with 14 home runs and just 45 RBIs. And to kick off the 2012 campaign, either of those seemed entirely possible.
But, right now, the man is hitting .281 with 10 home runs and 24 RBIs with five months to go. As you project that out over the course of the season, Nick is looking like some sort of Bermanesque Swami (just don't ask him how many RBIs he thought Gonzo would amass this year). Hopefully, this is just one step on a path to greatness for Salty.
Which is possible. It takes a while for catchers to come into their own; much longer than any other position on the diamond. They have to not only produce at the plate, but manage their own pitching staff as well as know the tendencies of the hundreds of opposing hitters. That's a lot for anyone to master, and it takes a few seasons to figure it out. And not every catcher can. There's a reason that guys like Pudge Rodriguez are gainfully employed well into their 90's.
But as we watch Salty "turn into an All-Star" (as Bobby suggests) it's becoming more and more apparent that we have a special player on our hands.
Rest of the links:
Herald - Scott Podsednik makes case in center | Josh Beckett’s ’tween angst | GM Ben Cherington eager for 1st draft | Nick Punto gets 2nd chance | Globe - Will Middlebrooks takes a seat in 'rotation' | Final: Tigers 7, Red Sox 3 | Ask Nick: Could Carl Crawford need surgery? | CSNNE - Cherington on the draft: 'We're not going to go after need' | Beckett battled, but didn't have 'best stuff' | WEEI - Bradford Files: Adrian Gonzalez seems to be getting along with right field just fine | Ross: Baseball activities to start next week | Iglesias out at least a few more days | ESPN - Beckett, Sox not good enough to top Tigers