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Bobby Valentine admitted that Saltalamacchia is playing "great."
"He's gaining confidence in all aspects of his life and his game," the manager said. "He walks into the clubhouse and he exudes confidence. When he goes to the mound, the pitchers like what he has to say. I think the umpires are respecting him and he's a confident player right now."
It's been a relatively smooth transition for him since he officially took over the starting catcher's role from former Sox captain Jason Varitek in 2011. After Varitek retired during spring training, Saltalamacchia has continued to build his reputation as a solid player both at and behind the plate, and in the clubhouse too, just as Varitek did during his career.
Lester -- who usually praises his teammates, especially his catcher, no matter if the team wins or loses -- had nothing but positive things to say about Saltalamacchia.
"I don't think it's anything unexpected," Lester said of Salty's emergence. "He came to us with a big name -- no pun intended. He had a big reputation of who he was as a catcher and an offensive player. Now he's just feeling comfortable. He knows his role. As much as Tek helps, having him not here helps as well. You don't have that presence breathing down your neck. Obviously, it's nice to have Tek here, but for Salty to get out from underneath that shadow and now it's his pitching staff, he's done a great job."
ESPNBoston | Salty's cooking a recipe for success
Salty has really been impressive this year. He still is clearly a streaky hitter, but his hot streaks outweigh the cold at this point.
He's got a .917 OPS on the year (thanks more to the S, .593, than the O, .325) and should be an All-Star barring a major slide. And this is considering that he started slow, hitting .240 with a .269 OBP in April, just a few home runs keeping him from being a pretty bad player. He really turned it on in May, and isn't slowing in June.
The question, long term, is: Can he keep it up? Is he finally maturing into the franchise catcher that he was expected to be? Or is he merely on a hot streak and will return to the Salty we know -- hard worker who flails at anything and doesn't have enough power to make up for it -- before long?
Surely, the Red Sox are curious to find out. And so is Ryan Lavarnway. We've all been hearing he was our catcher of the future, and then a minor trade for a former bust got in the way. I have to admit, during the slow start for the team I was staying positive only because I figured Lavarnway, Iglesias, Middlebrooks, and Kalish would be the starters next year, and we could be a younger, more fun team. Now? A lot of these guys I expected to be replaces -- Salty, Aviles, Ryan Sweeney -- are holding their own. The Sox will have some player evaluation decisions to make.
On page 2, Dustin Pedroia returns.
Pedroia went hitless with a walk and an RBI sacrifice fly in the fifth inning that tied the game at 2-2.
Afterwards, he said he hopes to be out of the brace in a few weeks, and was already adjusting to it by the end of the night.
"My thumb was good," said Pedroia. "I've just got to get used to the guard and get my timing back a little bit. But other than that, I felt fine.
"I'm not used to it, but my last few at-bats I felt more comfortable, and I was seeing the ball better and my timing was better. So, I'll build on that, come out tomorrow, and try to do something to help us."
CSNNE | Pedroia: 'My thumb was good'
It always takes hitters a few games to get their timing back; no need to worry. It's just great to see him back out there.
ESPNBoston | Aceves, Sox waste Salty's clutch HR | Rapid Reaction: Orioles 8, Red Sox 6 | CSNNE | Lester's solid outing results in no-decision | Lester: Good for Salty to get away from Tek's shadow | Saltalamacchia's late-inning heroics not enough | Globe | It's thumbs-up on Pedroia | Late heroics not enough as Red Sox fall to Orioles 8-6 | Major issues land Bard in the minors | Herald | Red Sox get no relief in loss to Baltimore | Minor setback for Daniel Bard | Lineup includes Pedroia playing | Bullpen can't hold Lester's advantage