Salty gets call -- and delivers -- again

May, 20, 2012
PHILADELPHIA -- An interesting lineup wrinkle for the series finale against the Phillies: Jarrod Saltalamacchia was behind the plate, even though a catcher typically is given a day game off after a night game.

Additionally, Kelly Shoppach has made 11 starts against lefties while this was just Saltalamacchia’s third start against lefties, second this weekend. He also started Friday night against Cole Hamels. It also marked the second straight game Saltalamacchia has caught starting pitcher Josh Beckett, after Shoppach had caught Beckett's previous five starts.

Saltalamacchia caught Beckett last Tuesday, when the right-hander limited the Seattle Mariners to four hits and two walks while striking out nine in seven scoreless innings.

Saltalamacchia rewarded manager Bobby Valentine's faith, ripping a tape-measure three-run homer in the third and receiving another strong outing by Beckett (one run over 7 2/3 innings).

"We've got a real strong guy there," Valentine said. "I've been talking daily with Salty. If there was any indication he needed to be off today, he was off today. But not only [did he have a] hot hand, he and Josh were so on tune their last start. Josh was really on tune with Kelly one game and he said, 'Why switch a good thing?' so I just took a page out of his book and said, 'Why switch a good thing?'''

Saltalamacchia is on a terrific offensive roll, with 11 hits in 23 at-bats over his last six games. That includes three hits Saturday night, including a 429-foot home run to right-center, after taking 12 stitches in his left ear the night before.

Youkilis coming soon? Kevin Youkilis will play for Pawtucket on Monday, which will be his third rehab appearance. Valentine said he hopes Youkilis will play nine innings.

Will Youkilis then join club in Baltimore on Tuesday?

"If he feels good after the game, I don't see any reason why not," Valentine said. "It's on him, [if] he wants another couple at-bats, or if he needs anything."

Ellsbury feeling 'really good': Here’s the latest on Jacoby Ellsbury from Valentine: “Talking to him yesterday, he said he was feeling really good. A lot of weightlifting work, they [trainers] thought he might be getting too strong, maybe take a little step back.

“He’s started the strengthening phase of his return to play. He says his legs are really good, he’s done his [abdominal] work, his range of motion is good. The strength [phase] will lead to, somewhere down road, baseball activity.’’

Valentine would not hazard a guess when that might be.

Aviles a big fan of Pap: Red Sox shortstop Mike Aviles couldn’t say enough about Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon.

“I love him,’’ Aviles said. “He’s one of my favorite players. Playing against him, you don’t see the kind of person he is, you only see the closer mentality and think, ‘Who is this guy?’ Then I get on the team, and he’s an unbelievable person, one of the best teammates I ever had. He’s not going to sugarcoat anything. You know where you stand with him. He either likes you or he doesn’t. I like that.’’

Aviles has home runs in each of the first two games here, including his first ever leading off a game Saturday night. How much would he enjoy playing regularly in a park like Citizens Bank?

“It would be nice,’’ he said. “I definitely wouldn’t mind it. I’ll tell you what, hitting in Kauffman Stadium [in Kansas City], you tend to appreciate hitters’ parks a little better. Kauffman, it’ll help you with your swing. It’ll definitely teach you how to hit. You can’t get big, you can’t try to do too much.

“Hitting in Boston is really nice, and this park is a really nice hitter’s park. I like it a lot. Nice atmosphere too. It’s always packed. I know the fans, they’re kind of like Fenway fans. They’re definitely not cheering for visitors; it’s all about the Phillies.

“There’s nothing better than going to a stadium and knowing fans are all about their home team. Loyal fans. I know as a visitor, I enjoy going to those parks, enjoy going to New York to experience something most people only dream about, playing against a team where the entire stadium is pretty much cheering against you. It’s an unbelievable feeling.’’

Gordon Edes

ESPN Staff Writer



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