After the offseason Braves No. 1 prospect Jarrod Saltalamacchia was coming off of, no one could have predicted that he’d get off to an 0-for-13 start. But this year is Saltalamacchia’s first exposure to Double-A pitching–both hitting it and learning the nuances of catching at the next level.
Saltalamacchia ended last season as the high Class A Carolina League’s No. 1 prospect after hitting .314/.394/.519 with 19 homers at Myrtle Beach. He then moved on to the Arizona Fall League, finishing up his season playing in the Olympic qualifier for Team USA.
We’ll be catching up with the switch-hitting catcher as he goes through the rigors of a season behind the plate at Double-A Mississippi. In his first installment, Saltalamacchia talks about starting slowly, working on his defensive mechanics and how technologically challenged he is in the day and age of players armed with iPods and state-of-the-art video games.
“Starting out 0-for-13 definitely isn’t something anyone wants to go through, but I started seeing balls better the day before I got my first hit. And even though it was a home run, it didn’t really matter.
It was nice, don’t get me wrong, but I would have been happy just to get anything to fall my way for a change. I look at it as one of those things where I feel better off starting in a slump than ending on one or having a long one during the year. Hopefully I can avoid those types of things.
But before the home run, I really started feeling better, making better contact and seeing balls a lot better.
I haven’t made too many mistakes behind the plate so far, and that’s obviously something I want to continue. I have a lot of work to do with blocking balls and calling games–and I take it as a personal challenge any time somebody tries to steal a bag on me. I think that might bug me more than anything when I feel like I have a chance to get a runner and I don’t do my job well. But overall, I feel like I’ve been doing really well defensively.
I know there was a lot of talk when I was in big league camp about me taking balls over at first base, but it really was just a lot of hype. All I know is what (the Braves) told me and that was that I’m going to stay at catcher. It may or may not change down the road and it’s not something I’m worried about or concern myself with at all. I don’t know if I’ll be there or not, I don’t think they know if I’ll be there or not. I just think that’s something that will work itself out in the long run. And it’s definitely not anything that enters my mind. I’m going to do whatever it takes to keep catching because ultimately that’s what I want to be doing.
We have nothing but five-game series this season in the Southern League, so while it’s good to see teams’ tendencies, their pitching staff and get to know the hitters, it makes for a long road trip–that’s for sure. I haven’t been used to these 10-day road trips, but I don’t mind it too much. People are making a big deal about the fact that if something negative happens between two teams during a five-game series, that it’s more likely to boil over to the next time you play and maybe that’s true–but I don’t see anything major happening. Tempers are going to flare no matter what. If something happens in Game 4 (of the series), it’s not like we’re going to go after somebody in Game 5. I don’t think it makes too much of a difference.
My teammates wear me out about not having anything with me other than my cell phone when I’m on the road. The only time I play video games is when maybe some of the other guys need an extra guy–that’s when I’ll play. But other than that, I don’t even know how to turn those things on. Xbox, PS2–it’s all foreign to me.
Same thing with iPods. I’d love to have one, but I’d have no idea how to even use it. Someone would have to program it for me, and even then I’d have to really trust what they were putting in there for me to listen to. Anybody who knows me knows that it’s all CMT (Country Music Television) all the time . . . MTV, VH-1 . . . I don’t watch that crap.
But really, I don’t do too much of anything outside the game. After a game behind the plate, you’re pretty exhausted. I used to surf a lot in high school and stuff, but I think the last time I saw the beach was in Myrtle Beach . . . and even then, that’s all I did–I saw it.”