‘Salty’ preparing to be No. 1 catcher in Boston

Jarrod Saltalamacchia didn’t earn Boston’s starting catching job
as much as inherit it when Victor Martinez signed with the Detroit
Tigers as a free agent.

So Saltalamacchia knows that he can’t take anything for
granted.

”To have that trust in me, to have people believe in me, is
huge,” he said Friday night at a charity event at Fenway Park. ”I
envisioned being in their plans somehow. I’m very happy and
fortunate to be in this position.”

Acquired from the Texas Rangers’ minor league system at the
trade deadline, Saltalamacchia was limited to 10 games in Boston
last year because of a left leg infection and a thumb injury that
required surgery in the offseason. Saltalmacchia, who also had
problems throwing the ball back to the pitcher, said at a
fundraiser for general manager Theo Epstein’s charity that he was
healthy and getting ready for spring training.

”He’s kind of re-formed his body,” Epstein said at the Hot
Stove Cool Music fundraiser for his Foundation To Be Named Later.
”He’s not taking this opportunity for granted.”

Epstein said Saltalamacchia has been diligent in his offseason
workouts, improving his flexibility while also adjusting his
catching style to become a more technically proficient defender.
Little things like turning his wrist, instead of moving his arm to
catch pitches, will help him and the pitchers he handles.

Although Saltalamacchia will replace Martinez behind the plate,
he doesn’t have to fill that role in the batting order. Boston
traded for slugger Adrian Gonzalez and signed speedster Carl
Crawford during the offseason, bringing in a couple of bats that
can more than replace the production lost when Martinez and Adrian
Beltre left.

Epstein said that will help Saltalamacchia develop, because he
won’t be expected to hit the way Martinez did when he batted .302
with 20 homers last year. Another bonus will be the ability to work
with Jason Varitek, the longtime Red Sox catcher whose handling of
pitchers is considered a strength.

Varitek, who was all but gone when his contract expired at the
end of last season, signed a one-year deal to return to the team as
a role player. Epstein likes the combination of a young catcher
who’s learning the job and a veteran known for his handling of the
pitchers.

”They’ve already shown they can work together,” he said.
”Salty’s always looked up to Jason, even before he was in the
organization. He’s a very willing mentor, and Salty’s a very
willing disciple. So the relationship is going to be a plus for
us.”

Epstein’s charity, a branch of the Red Sox Foundation, raises
money for disadvantaged youths in the Boston area. Friday night’s
event and a Saturday night concert featuring professional musicians
along with baseball rockers like Bronson Arroyo and Peter Gammons,
raised about $300,000.

Also on Friday, closer Jonathan Papelbon and outfielder Jacoby
Ellsbury filed for arbitration. Papelbon made $9.35 million last
season, which was the worst of his career; Ellsbury, who made
$496,500, struggled in 2010 because of injuries and played in just
18 games.