Epstein: Time to pounce on Salty

July, 31, 2010
BOSTON -- Boston Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein wanted to acquire a catcher at the trade deadline, and now he’s got one.

The Sox traded a pair of minor-league prospects (first baseman Chris McGuiness and pitcher Roman Mendez) to the Texas Rangers in exchange for catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia.

The 25-year-old backstop has been on the Sox’s radar for some time, and now that he’s in the mix, he has been optioned to Triple-A Pawtucket for the time being.

“We’ve been scouting him heavily this year, and he’s obviously a guy we’ve liked in the past,” Epstein said. “He came with a real high price tag in the past, and we hope he’s someone we’re buying low on right now as he’s battling a few different issues.”

Last winter Saltalamacchia had surgery on the thoracic outlet syndrome, which is a combination of pain in the neck and shoulder. It causes numbness and a weak grip.

“He’s had a difficult recovery from that,” Epstein said.

Saltalamacchia also has had throwing issues this season, including trouble throwing the ball back to the pitcher. Boston had scouts watching him right up until the deadline, and they’re convinced those woes are a thing of the past.

“He’s battled some throwing issues earlier this year, but he didn’t take time off and he really battled through them,” Epstein said. “He’s throwing the ball back to the pitcher fine and throwing to the bases pretty well. We feel like he’s a classic guy with a high ceiling who needs a change of scenery.”

Epstein and the Red Sox believe they can work with Saltalamacchia to “unleash that potential at some point” and the club is hoping he can help in the short and long term.

Epstein has tried to acquire Saltalamacchia for the past two seasons, but the Rangers wanted at least pitcher Clay Buchholz in return. Rangers president Nolan Ryan said during the winter meetings two years ago in Las Vegas that “Clay will look good in a Rangers uniform” but Epstein would not part ways with the right-hander.

“We scouted [Saltalamacchia] heavily a couple of years ago,” Epstein said. “We kept an eye on his career and watched the ups and downs. In the back of our heads, we thought if there was a right time to get him without giving up premium talent, it would be something we would pounce on.”

The Red Sox felt now was the right time to pounce.

Selected in the first round (36th overall) by the Atlanta Braves in the 2003 amateur draft, Saltalamacchia was traded to the Rangers as part of the Mark Teixeira deal in 2007. Saltalamacchia has played a total of 240 major league games over the last four seasons between the Braves and Rangers and has posted a .251 average with 23 homers and 94 RBIs and 100 runs scored.

He played 84 games for the Rangers last season, hitting .233 with nine homers and 34 RBIs. He was slated to be the full-time catcher for the Rangers this season, but after two games he was placed on the disabled list with a strained upper back.

He began a rehab assignment on April 20 and was optioned to the Triple-A Oklahoma City RedHawks on April 27. He remained at Triple-A, posting a .244 average with 11 homers and 33 RBIs.

In the days leading up to Saturday's trade deadline, Epstein also inquired about Rockies catcher Chris Iannetta and Diamondbacks receiver Chris Snyder. Epstein wanted a catcher under control through 2011; Saltalamacchia will be arbitration eligible after next season.

Joe McDonald

ESPN Staff Writer



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