NEW YORK — In Miami Marlins catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia’s opinion, 10 games is too small of a sample size.
For the third straight day, prospect J.T. Realmuto started at backstop for the Marlins, signifying a shift at the position in the early stages of the 2015 season. Saltalamacchia, a nine-year veteran, finds himself in unfamiliar territory.
"Six games in (and not playing)," Saltalamacchia said prior to Friday night’s game at Citi Field against the New York Mets. "It’s part of it. No hard feelings whatsoever. I want to win. My job is to help the team win, so whatever I can do to help is what I’m going to do."
When backup Jeff Mathis fractured his right hand last Sunday, the Marlins recalled Realmuto from Triple-A New Orleans to serve — what seemed at the time — in that capacity.
But several factors have led to a change in such a short period of time.
Realmuto, who turned 24 last month, is considered the organization’s backstop of the future. During his first two big-league stints last season, he hit .241 (7 for 29) with four runs, a double, a triple and nine RBI in 29 at-bats. Realmuto also spent several weeks in big-league camp this spring.
Saltalamacchia, who turns 30 on May 2, has struggled since signing a three-year, $21 million deal two winters ago to play for his hometown team.
Through seven games (six starts) in 2015, he is batting 2 for 22 (.091) with two runs, a double, a homer, three walks and 11 strikeouts. In 2014, Saltalamacchia posted a .220 average with 20 doubles, 11 homers and 44 RBI. He also committed a position-high 15 errors.
"It’s six games in," Saltalamacchia said. "Six games is a really, really tough sample to go off of. Never been in this situation before, so it’s a little different. But like I said before, come to the ballpark every day ready to play, do what I can to make the team better and be ready whenever I’m called upon."
Manager Mike Redmond said "we’ll go accordingly from here on out" in regards to the position. He noted that sometimes it’s necessary to sit a regular for a few days in order to recapture production.
"I didn’t expect him to be happy about it," Redmond said of telling Saltalamacchia. "It’s one of those tough conversations a manager has with players. I’ve been there on that end — and it’s tough – but it’s how you respond to it. Come out and make the adjustments, and that’s kind of what we’re looking for. We need Salty. He’s a big part of this team, and sometimes just a couple days to regroup motivates guys. Hopefully it’ll do that with him."
Saltalamacchia intends on following his normal routine and being available to guys seek guidance.
Even if he’s not in the lineup, Saltalamacchia feels like he can make a positive impact on the ballclub, particularly with Realmuto who has just 14 major-league games of experience.
"J.T.’s still new at this, so talking to him a little bit," Saltalamacchia said. "He hasn’t caught (David) Phelps too much, so I can help him get through that. I’ve faced (Bartolo) Colon. A few of these guys I’ve faced a lot, so I can help him with that. I can still help the team."
When told it seemed he was looking at the situation in a positive light, Saltalamacchia replied, "You have to. What else am I going to do?"
His role can go any number of ways depending on how things play out. Miami hasn’t finished the first month of the season yet.
"I believe everything happens for a reason, and I think everything happens for the good," Saltalamacchia said. "Eventually some good will come out of it.
"I can’t control this. I can’t go in there and grab the lineup and put my name in there. Do I want to be in there? Yeah. There’s not a day I don’t want to be in there. I’m not going to sit here and complain and b****. Am I mad? Yeah, I’m mad. I want to play, but that’s not helping the team. I’m not going to hurt this team. I’m not going to be the reason.
"I’m not going to be the reason that causes a distraction."