Jarrod Saltalamacchia determined to build new memories with Marlins

Jarrod Saltalamacchia, the Marlins' big free-agent signing, faced off against his former Red Sox team Thursday afternoon.

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JUPITER, Fla. — Four months ago, Jarrod Saltalamacchia rode a duck boat through Boston to celebrate the Red Sox’s third World Series in the past 10 years.

On Thursday afternoon, Miami’s new catcher found his former team in the visiting dugout at Roger Dean Stadium for a Grapefruit League game.

While guys like David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia and Mike Napoli didn’t make the trip from Fort Myers, many Red Sox faithful did.

A crowd of 6,427 gave Saltalamacchia a raucous applause during his introduction and before his two at-bats.

"It’s not too far removed so it’s not that big of the deal, but obviously being there for four years and not there is a little different," Saltalamacchia said. "I’m ready to move on, ready to start that chapter here. They had a lot of history there, but it’s time to start some history here and win a World Series for ourselves."

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Saltalamacchia, who signed a three-year, $21 million contract with the Marlins this past offseason, was part of the greatest turnaround season in baseball history.

No other team had a lower winning percentage (.426) the year before winning the World Series than the 2013 Red Sox. Boston joined the 1991 Minnesota Twins as the only ballclubs to go from worst to first.

"He was very much part of what I would consider the closest-knit team I’ve ever been around," Red Sox coach John Farrell said. "That clubhouse camaraderie and having one another’s back and supporting one another — that’s critical. It translated I think to on-field play and maybe to push late in the game to win some games. He was a big part of that."

The 28-year-old hit .273 with 14 home runs and a career-high 65 RBI in 121 games. Saltalamacchia batted .188 with a double and five RBI in 10 postseason games, but played only two in the World Series. He also handled a veteran staff that included right-handers Jake Peavy and John Lackey.

How they went about their business and daily routine are pieces of wisdom Saltalamacchia intends on passing along to Miami’s young but talented staff.

A group, led by ace Jose Fernandez, that caught his attention during the free agent process and makes him eager for the new season to begin.

It lured him away from the organization that renewed his confidence by trading for him in 2010.

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After appearing in just 193 games in parts of four years with the Texas Rangers, Boston took a chance on the former first-round selection by the Atlanta Braves.

Over parts of four seasons in Boston, Saltalamacchia played in 355 games and compiled a .243 average, 55 home runs and 181 RBI.

"At that time I just needed an opportunity, and they gave me that opportunity," Saltalamacchia said. "Texas kind of had me in Triple-A, and it just wasn’t a fit I guess. I was able to come to Boston. They gave me the opportunity to play every day, restart my career. I’m thankful for that.

"Those guys reinvented who I was and making me more sure of myself because at the time I was searching. Those guys helped me have some reassurance in myself that I could still play the game."

In Thursday’s matchup with the Red Sox, Saltalamacchia went 0 for 2 with a flyout to center and a groundout to second as the cleanup hitter. He caught five innings. He is 2 for 12 (.200) with a home run and two RBI in five spring games.

"I think you probably ramp it up a bit more every time you play your former team," Marlins manager Mike Redmond said before the game. "He might swing a little harder today."

Saltalamacchia, who has fielded questions about his former team since arriving at camp in early February, hoped Thursday would be the last time.

Unless of course — as one reporter noted — the teams met in the World Series.

"We’ll be friends for a long time," Saltalamacchia said of his Boston teammates. "Those are memories that will last forever. You don’t want to live on those. You want to start some new ones. We have a great thing here, and that’s what I’m looking forward to doing."

You can follow Christina De Nicola on Twitter @CDeNicola13 or email her at cdenicola13@gmail.com.