November 2010

Meet The Red Sox Opening Day Catcher…At Least For Now

As I type this at 11:23 am on November 23rd, Jarrod Saltalamacchia is the Boston Red Sox primary catcher to begin the 2011 season. 



(photo courtesy of Kelly O’Connor)


“Nothing is set in stone but it looks like I could have an opportunity to earn a spot in the lineup,” Saltalamacchia told the Boston Globe after Victor Martinez signed as a free agent with Detroit. “Obviously it makes me feel great that the organization has confidence in me.


“This is the opportunity I’ve been waiting for.  I’m glad Victor got what he wanted, but now I need to run with this.”


Saltalamacchia only played in 10 games for Boston after being obtained in a July 31st trade with Texas for three minor leaguers, but Red Sox manager Terry Francona liked what he saw.


“Really interesting kid,” Francona told WEEI radio.  “He has been through a lot.  He’s been injured; he’s had some trouble throwing.  Saying that, he’s been the Rangers’ Opening Day catcher the last two years, that’s how much they thought of him.  A switch-hitter with power, I think we view him potentially as somebody that can really fit the bill as maybe an everyday catcher with us.

“Saying that, I don’t know if you want to just – because of everything he’s been through – hand everything to him on April 1st and say “Go get ’em’.  Sometimes you’re helping to set somebody up to fail.  We don’t want that to happen.  We want to help this kid progress because we really like what’s in there, but you also want to help him get there.”

While Francona sounded somewhat hesitant about handing Saltalamacchia the primary job, baseball analyst Lou Merloni sounded even more skeptical when asked if he would be comfortable with Jarrod behind the plate for Boston on Opening Day.


“No, not one bit and I don’t think the Red Sox really can be,” Merloni said on CSNNE.  “They haven’t seen enough of this kid.  Maybe some day.  They got a great value in him and didn’t give up much, but he’s sort of like that project that’s got potential and could be that some day, but just not right now.  I don’t think you can go into the season (with Jarrod as the starter) and I don’t believe that they think that right now.  They just haven’t seen enough.  Maybe a few years down the road – fine – but right now?  No, I wouldn’t feel confident one bit with him as the Opening Day starter.”   


I didn’t get to know Jarrod very well since he only played in nine games for the PawSox, but he did consent to a “Fantastic Fun Facts” interview.  Here were some of the more interesting nuggets.


Who was your childhood hero?


“I looked up to Ken Griffey Jr., but I was really into my brother Justin.  He actually played with me my first two years of pro ball.  He’s four years older than me and I thought he was the coolest guy in the world.  Now I realize that I can beat him up and he’s not so cool anymore.”


What’s the highlight of your career so far?


“Getting called-up for the first time when I was 22 years old with Atlanta was probably my best moment in baseball, but the greatest moment of my life was the birth of both of my kids (daughters Sidney and Hunter).  I love my kids to death and there’s nothing that could top that.  I enjoy every minute with them.”


What’s been your most embarrassing moment in baseball?


“There was a time in Baltimore where I took a pitch and I thought, ‘Man, I saw that ball so well, I wonder why?’  The umpire screamed time out and I had the wrong helmet on.  I had a left-handed helmet on when I was batting righty.  The whole thing was caught on live TV and it was pretty embarrassing.”


If you could choose your uniform number, what would it be?


“I guess probably 48.  There are 4 people in my family – me, my wife, and our two girls – and I had a cousin who was killed in a car accident and he wore the number 8, so I’ve always wanted to have an 8 in there somewhere (Jarrod wore #39 with the Red Sox last year.  Scott Atchison wore #48).” 


Have you had any interesting brushes with greatness?


“I got to meet former President George W. Bush which was awesome.  He came into the clubhouse in Washington when I was playing for Texas in interleague play and he invited us to the White House.  I got to go into the Oval Office and it was a great experience.  It was something I’ll never forget.  Not too many people get to do that, so it was pretty exciting.”


Did you come away with any souvenirs?


“We got to take a picture with him in front of his desk.  I know we have one in my house.  We probably copied it 10 times and gave it to everyone in the family.”


At 14 letters, you have the longest last name in major league baseball history.  What does your autograph look like?


“It’s ‘J’ with a squiggly line and an ‘S’ with a squiggly line.  It doesn’t look anything like my name.  Sometimes I’ll put my full name down, but it takes a long time to do it.”


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Sox Sign Drew Sutton

Drew Sutton was born in Arkansas, attended high school in Tennessee, college in Texas, and lives near Dallas now.  But despite the variety of southern stops, Sutton has a dream that makes him sound like a New Englander.


“It was always on my bucket list to go to Fenway Park,” Sutton told me.  “Having a chance to play there is incredible.”



Sutton will have that opportunity in 2011 after signing with Boston as a minor league free agent on Monday.  The 27-year-old switch-hitter is a jack-of-all-trades who can play anywhere in the infield as well as the corner positions in the outfield. 


“We had five or six teams that called once they could contact minor league free agents and my decision came down to San Diego or Boston,” Sutton said.   “The Red Sox were more aggressive with their offer and it seemed like a better overall situation as far as the opportunities in Triple-A and also the possible opportunity to contribute to the big league team.”


Sutton has major league experience with Cincinnati and Cleveland, batting .229 (.302 OBP) with 3 HR in 55 big league games.  In 7 minor league seasons, he’s batted .279 (.379 OBP/.434 SLG) with three seasons of 15 or more home runs.  His deal with the Red Sox includes an invitation to big league training camp in Ft. Myers, and Drew hopes to be this year’s Nick Green (2009) or Darnell McDonald (2010) – players who signed minor league deals but wound up spending the year in Boston. 


“I don’t think anybody could have predicted what happened with the Red Sox last year as far as how many injuries there were and how many free agent signees they needed to use during the season,” Sutton said.  “That’s one of the crazy things about baseball.  I was in a similar situation in 2009 when I was with the Reds – I happened to be in the right place at the right time.  You always hope for an opportunity to get to the big leagues, but you can’t control what happens with injuries or how guys play.  The best you can hope for is to get the opportunity to play every day at Triple-A and produce.  Then when the time comes, you’re the first guy that pops into their head.”


While his goal is to play in Boston, Sutton knows there’s a strong possibility that he’ll begin the season with the PawSox.


“When you’re on a minor league contract, you have to prepare for the possibility of being sent down, and being in Pawtucket is a great worst-case scenario because of the support of the fans.  And it may sound funny, but it’s great when the team has a nice clubhouse because there’s where you wind up spending the majority of your time.”


Best of all, McCoy Stadium is one stop from Fenway.


“Me and my wife started a bucket list and I had to put that on there,” Sutton said with a laugh.  “She wants to go to Rome and Paris.  She also has one that’s a little scary – she wants to go to Australia and swim with sharks.  We might have to wait until baseball is over for that one.”


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The Return of Jeff Bailey

Jeff Bailey spent parts of six years playing for the Pawtucket Red Sox (2004-09).


In 2011, there’s a good chance that he’ll be playing against them.


Bailey at Fenway resize.jpg 

(photo courtesy of Kelly O’Connor)


The 2008 International League MVP signed with the Minnesota Twins as a minor league free agent on Wednesday.  His deal includes an invitation to major league spring training camp, but if he doesn’t make the big league club, he’s likely to start the season at McCoy Stadium . . . in a Rochester uniform.


“I looked at the schedule the other day and saw that the Rochester Red Wings open at Pawtucket so that will be kind of strange,” Bailey told me.  “I’ll get to take part in another Opening Day ceremony and it will be extra special because I’m sure there will be a tribute to Ben Mondor.  I’ve talked to some people about that and watched some interviews online with Mike Tamburro and Theo Epstein.  It’s sad, but I know they’re going to work really hard to keep everything going the way that Ben wanted it to go.  It will be good to be there again.”


Bailey spent last year with Arizona’s Triple-A team in Reno, NV, batting .289 (.387 OBP/.462 SLG) with 33 doubles and 78 RBI.  But despite having a solid season, he was not enamored with the Diamondbacks’ organization.


“It was poorly run and people lost their jobs because of it,” Bailey said.  “I was told a lot of things that were lies and I addressed the general manager and manager at the end of spring training about those issues.  Any chance I had of getting called-up probably went out the window.  But you have to stand up for yourself every once in a while.”


As a six-year minor league free agent, Bailey was free to negotiate with other teams beginning five days after the World Series ended.  He was interested in returning to the Boston organization, but Minnesota was aggressive in pursuing him.


“The Twins called right away,” Bailey said.  “My agent got an offer from them and asked me what I thought.  It was a great offer, but I wanted to call the Red Sox and see what they had to say.  But Boston has some other issues going on and they’re not going to be doing any six-year free agent signings at this point.  Maybe three or four weeks down the road is what (VP of Player Personnel) Ben Cherington told us, so we didn’t want to wait and decided to move forward with the Twins.”


Next season will be Bailey’s 15th in pro baseball (he turns 32 on Friday), and while Jeff obviously hopes to spend at least part of it in Minnesota, he will not complain if he’s sent to Rochester.    


“It’s pretty simple.  I enjoy playing baseball thoroughly and if someone is willing to give me an opportunity then that’s what I’m going to do.” Bailey said.  “I’m not going to get involved in any of the politics.  Last year I thought that going to the Diamondbacks would help me get to the big leagues, but I’m not going to worry about that anymore.  I’m going to let the cards fall where they may.  I’m going to plan on being in Rochester and having a good Triple-A season and if I get called up to help that team win in the big leagues than that’s what I’m going to do.  I don’t dwell on that stuff anymore.  I’m just happy to still be playing.”


PawSox fans will be happy to see him again.  Even if he’s wearing the wrong uniform.


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The Soundtrack Of Summer in Seattle

A typical PawSox home game ends around 10:00 pm and by the time we’ve wrapped up the post-game show and I’ve taken care of some stats and notes that I’m responsible for, my 48-minute drive home usually begins around 11:00.


Thanks to XM radio, Seattle Mariners’ broadcaster Dave Niehaus not only made the late night commute bearable – he made it enjoyable.  If the Mariners had a home game, I knew I’d have the pleasure of listening to a master at work.



Niehaus was the Mariners’ primary play-by-play announcer from the team’s inception in 1977 until his passing of a heart attack at the age of 75 on Wednesday.  He received the Ford Frick Award in Cooperstown for his “major contributions to baseball” in 2008 and is unquestionably one of the greatest broadcasters in history.


The thing that stood out to me about Niehaus was his incredible enthusiasm.  Every time I tuned in, Dave sounded as happy as my 4-year-old son Sam was last week when I brought home the Toy Story 3 DVD he had been asking for.


Keep in mind, that’s how Niehaus sounded after calling more than 5,000 Mariners games. 


There’s a tremendous lesson there for anyone in sports broadcasting.  If you can’t have a blast when you’re sitting in the best seat in the house while getting paid to talk about a sporting event, you’re in the wrong business. 


Dave’s calls of famous moments in Mariners history are priceless, and usually ended with his signature phrase, “My oh my.” 


Some of his most memorable calls can be heard here:


But I plan to go to’s Gameday Audio section, pick out a random Mariners game from last season and listen to Niehaus weave his magic on an average night in the middle of a losing season.  I know I’ll laugh, marvel at his descriptive abilities, and feel like I’m listening to the most exciting game of the year.


My commute home won’t be the same next summer.    


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If David Pauley Had A Vote . . .

Major league baseball begins doling out its postseason honors on Tuesday when the American League Gold Glove recipients are announced, and the various award winners are named every few days until November 23rd.


The most interesting – and controversial – category this year is likely to be the American League’s Cy Young Award.


As recently as two or three years ago, the winner almost certainly would have been either New York’s C.C. Sabathia (21-7, 3.18 ERA) or Tampa Bay’s David Price (19-6, 2.72 ERA).  Jon Lester (19-9, 3.25 ERA) and Clay Buchholz (17-7, 2.33) would have ranked high in the “close but no cigar” category.


But as advanced statistics have become more mainstream, many voters are downplaying a pitcher’s win total and placing more emphasis on data that better demonstrates individual performance.  Those voters seem likely to support Seattle’s Felix Hernandez who had a mediocre 13-12 record, but led the AL in ERA (2.27), innings pitched, opponent’s batting average, and quality starts, and ranked second in strikeouts and WHIP.


Former PawSox pitcher David Pauley doesn’t have a vote, but if he did, it would go to his Mariners teammate. 


“If he doesn’t win the Cy Young it will be shocking,” Pauley told me.  “If there’s anybody that deserves it, it’s him.  There was not a day where he had bad stuff.  He’s got incredible command of a 95-96 mile an hour fastball, with crazy breaking stuff.  He’s so mature for his age and knows so much about the game already – to see what happens over the next 15 to 20 years is going to be something amazing.”


Pauley Seattle.jpg 

This season was Pauley’s first in the Seattle organization and it was his most successful big league campaign to date.  After getting promoted from Triple-A Tacoma on June 27th, Pauley posted a respectable 4.07 ERA in 19 games (15 starts).


“I feel like I was able to open some eyes,” Pauley said.  “I threw the ball pretty well and hopefully they like me and will continue to give me opportunities next year.  I’ve figured a few things out, I’ve gotten some confidence, and it’s been big.  I was able to use all of my pitches for strikes and something just clicked this year.”


The fact that David did not spend the entire year in the minors indicates that the Mariners look beyond wins and losses when evaluating their pitchers.


“When I got called up, I was 1-6 with about a 3.60 ERA (actual = 3.68),” Pauley said.  “You hope that the major league team isn’t going by your won/loss record, but it’s always in the back of your mind.  That was hard to look at and still believe I would have an opportunity to go up.”


One of the highlights of the season for David was his strong showing against his former team.  In three starts against the Red Sox, Pauley had a 3.12 ERA.


“I’ll admit that I got up a little bit more for those games,” Pauley said with a laugh.  “It’s like showing them, ‘Hey, I’m still here.’  I owe a lot to Boston.  They gave me an opportunity to go to the big leagues.  They taught me a lot about the game and how to be a major league baseball player.  It gave me the confidence coming over here to know that I could pitch at that level.


Pauley at Fenway.jpg 

(photo courtesy of Kelly O’Connor)


“It’s an unbelievable place to play.  If you ask any professional baseball player, anybody would want to be part of that tradition and history.  Getting to play with guys like Ortiz, Manny, Schilling, Wakefield … I got to play with some awesome people and got to be part of a great organization.” 


But big league opportunities were limited in Boston.  In Seattle, Pauley is getting a chance to establish himself with the young and rebuilding Mariners.


“It’s a great place to play – it really is,” Pauley said.  “Last year (with Triple-A Norfolk) was a struggle, and I didn’t know if I was going to have a job this year.  To be here and do what I’ve always wanted to do and have success at it – it’s been what I’ve been striving toward over the last 10 years.”


The front row seat to watch King Felix isn’t bad either.


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