JUPITER, Fla. (AP) Over the winter, Jarrod Saltalamacchia took his family hunting, introduced his three young daughters to the sport and even spent 20 minutes with his 7-year-old in a deer stand before she got bored and turned to her iPad.
”I spent a lot of time with the family, a lot of great vacation time,” Saltalamacchia said. ”It was a great offseason.”
Better than last season, for sure. In his first year with the Miami Marlins, Saltalamacchia was a flop at the plate and behind it.
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He committed 15 errors, the most by a catcher since 2003, according to STATS. He threw out 19 percent of baserunners trying to steal to rank 70th among all catchers.
His offense was no better. He batted .222 with 44 RBIs, and his slugging percentage of .357 was the worst among regular catchers.
As spring training begins, Saltalamacchia is eager to reset his stat line to all zeros.
”Time to move on,” he said Monday.
Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria loosened the purse strings this offseason, allowing the team to swing a lot of deals and position itself as a possible contender in the NL East. But because Saltalamacchia has two years left on a three-year, $21 million contract, there was little value for him on the trade market.
So Miami decided to stand pat at catcher in the hopes he’ll bounce back this year.
”He’s an important part of our ballclub,” manager Mike Redmond said. ”We need him to go out there and not just get some big hits, but lead our pitching staff and play great defense. Last year might have been a little bit of a down year for him, but we’re looking for him to rebound.”
There’s reason to believe he can. Saltalamacchia had a slugging percentage of at least .450 for three consecutive years with the Red Sox before signing with Miami.
Redmond said switching leagues might have contributed to the nosedive in productivity, and Saltalamacchia acknowledged he struggled with the change more than he expected.
”I didn’t think it was going to be that big of a difference,” Saltalamacchia said. ”But when you know the style of how teams play, you’re always prepared. Going to a different league, you don’t know how they play. And everybody plays differently.”
Another issue: Saltalamacchia suffered a concussion in May when he took a foul tip off his face mask and missed nearly three weeks.
”I had never gone through it,” he said. ”I was foggy. I wasn’t understanding everything that was going on. I couldn’t really hold a conversation. That messed me up in general. But when I came back I was 100 percent, as far as the mind side of it – whatever 100 percent is for me.”
Saltalamacchia was most disappointed last year in his defense. Glove work has never been considered his strong suit, but his error total was more than double his worst season in Boston.
”I still haven’t looked at the numbers; I don’t know what they are,” Saltalamacchia said. ”But I know it wasn’t what I wanted them to be, or what I’m capable of.”
On the positive side, the team ERA with Saltalamacchia behind the plate with 3.59, lowest of his career and better than backup catcher Jeff Mathis’ 3.97.
Another plus for Saltalamacchia was that he played for his hometown team. The West Palm Beach native bought a home an hour from Marlins Park, which allowed him a lot of quality time with his children.
”Going from two years ago, where I went four or five months without seeing them, it’s definitely worth every minute,” he said. ”Getting to take them to school, playing the game you love to play, and then coming home to them – you couldn’t ask for anything better.”