8/29/2013 12:27 A.M. ET
Salty homering less, but impacting more games
By Jason Mastrodonato / MLB.com
BOSTON -- Jarrod Saltalamacchia hit 25 home runs in 405 at-bats last year, ranking him the 12th most dangerous hitter in the Majors according to home runs per at-bat among those with at least 400 at-bats.
Every 16.2 at-bats in 2012, Saltalamacchia homered. With going deep just 11 times entering Wednesday's game vs. the Orioles, he's homered once every 32.9 at-bats this season.
But in just about every other measurable and non-measurable part of his game, Saltalamacchia has improved greatly in 2013.
To manager John Farrell, it's a no-brainer which season of production he'd prefer from the burly catcher.
"You look at it as a willingness to hit the pitch where it's located rather than going in, looking to sell out and drive a pitch no matter where it is on the plate," Farrell said. "The home-run totals might be down a little bit, but it's a more dangerous and more complete hitter with the numbers he's putting up right now."
Saltalamacchia is still striking out about 30 percent of the time, but he's swinging at less pitches out of the strike zone and less pitches in general. And the hacks he's been taking have been much more productive, going with the pitch instead of chasing.
The switch-hitting backstop has doubled his double output from 2012 (17) in 362 at-bats this season, giving him the team lead with 34. Also, Saltalamacchia's .797 OPS is the highest of his career.
With backup Davis Ross missing 65 games this season due to two concussions, Saltalamacchia has kept himself healthy and productive with the increased workload.
"I guess he's eating right," Farrell joked. "He takes care of his body. He's got a very good workout routine. Prior to catching this number of games, he's always asked for more. He's clearly not only getting it, but he's getting better with more play and more consistent reps behind the plate."
Saltalamacchia, who played his 104th game this season Tuesday, is making $4.5 million this season, his last before he hits free agency, which could make him a valuable commodity. According to wins above replacement, Saltalamacchia, with 2.6, is the most valuable catcher ready to hit the market this offseason by a full 1.0 WAR. A.J. Pierzynski, John Buck, Carlos Ruiz and Dioner Navarro are also eligible for free agency.
What Saltalamacchia has done offensively is still in the shadows of his work behind the plate, in which he's helped nurture a starting rotation that ranks 10th in the Majors with a 3.81 ERA, despite being without Clay Buchholz since June 8.
On Saltalamacchia's relationship with the staff, Farrell said, "You can never underestimate it."
X-rays negative, Ellsbury hopes to play Thursday
BOSTON -- There isn't much room between the part of the pad that covers Jacoby Ellsbury's right shin and the part that covers his right foot, but there's a wide enough space for a baseball to hit in between there, and Ellsbury paid for it on Wednesday night.
In the seventh inning of the Red Sox's 4-3 win over the Orioles, Ellsbury hit a 0-1 pitch from Francisco Rodriguez and smacked it off his right foot, which left him hobbling momentarily for a minute and brought out the Red Sox's medical staff. Ellsbury continued the at-bat, hit an infield single and then again was examined at first base by the trainers.
Ellsbury stayed in the game, stole second base and scored the game-tying run, but he did not return to play center field in the top of the eighth inning, instead getting X-rays, which came back negative.
"The foot was throbbing, but I knew it was a big run, big situation, and I knew how to get in scoring position," said Ellsbury, who expects he'll be in the lineup for Thursday's series finale. "It obviously didn't feel good at all. But obviously it was a big point in the game and I know we had to get in scoring position. And when [Dustin] Pedroia hit that ball, there was only one thing, and that was to score."
Ellsbury has been electric at the top of the Red Sox's lineup, particularly over the past 10 games, when he's scored 10 runs and stolen five bases, including his 49th of the season.
Manager John Farrell is hopeful Ellsbury will play Thursday.
"If overnight there is additional pain or swelling, we'll take every precaution needed," Farrell said. "But hopefully this is a short-term thing. He's been so important to us."
Bogaerts held hitless in first Fenway start
BOSTON -- Xander Bogaerts was hitless in three at-bats in his first career start at Fenway Park during Wednesday's 4-3 win over the Orioles, but it was an eventful night for the 20-year-old.
The Red Sox's top prospect saw just four pitches in three at-bats, but he squared the ball up each time, hitting a hard grounder and lining out twice before stepping to the on-deck circle in the tie game with two outs in the eighth inning.
The fairy-tale ending didn't happen for Bogaerts, as he was lifted for pinch-hitter Mike Carp, who hit the go-ahead single. But Bogaerts first start at Fenway impressed fans, who even booed manager John Farrell's decision to remove him from the game.
Bogaerts also impressed his manager.
"I thought his at-bats were consistent with what we've seen of late," Farrell said. "He stays inside the ball well, he's looking to move the runner over in the case where he hits a soft-liner to second base, but he plays the game with ease. There's a calmness about him that he's shown in a short period of time."
Bogaerts, who is 3-for-12 during his short time in the Majors after hitting .297 in the Minors this season, has been happy with his at-bats so far.
"I felt good," Bogaerts said. "I missed that ball by a few inches, that ground ball [in the fourth inning]. I hit the ball pretty good."
Bogaerts played third base in his first start. A natural shortstop, he's been playing third to become more versatile in the eyes of the manager, who now has the option of using Bogaerts to spell Will Middlebrooks at third or Stephen Drew at shortstop.
Bogaerts has played the hot corner for 13 1/3 innings since his call up and has converted all his chances. While playing third occasionally for Triple-A Pawtucket, Bogaerts manned the position 10 games and made just one error.
Bogaerts still views himself as a shortstop, but he'll play anywhere.
"A work in progress -- particularly on the long and short hop, depending upon the speed of the runner," Farrell said of Bogaerts' defense at third base. "There's different footwork that will be executed in reading that hop.
"With just a handful of games, there's limited opportunity, so the early work was critical in him getting comfortable over there. But he's such a good athlete and he's got that internal clock that we saw on the play at shortstop the other night out in L.A. [Yasiel] Puig is flying down the line, and he doesn't waste movement and he uses the ground to skip a throw. He's got that instinct. The repetition at third, just because he's been a shortstop his whole career, that's a little bit on the short end."
• Buchholz will make his rehab appearance with Triple-A Pawtucket on Friday, and he's still on schedule to throw about 55 pitches. The righty will likely make one more start with Pawtucket, perhaps in a playoff game, before returning to the Red Sox.
• Brandon Snyder, on the 15-day disabled list due to a sore right elbow, began his rehab assignment with Pawtucket on Wednesday. Farrell said Snyder will likely return on Sunday, when rosters expand.
• Farrell said he expects to call up about eight or nine players in September. Some of them will be up immediately on Sunday while others may arrive later. A third catcher, a right-handed reliever and the speedy Quintin Berry were a few needs Farrell highlighted.
• Matt Barnes, the Red Sox's first-round Draft pick in 2011 and the team's fifth-ranked prospect, will be promoted to Triple-A on Thursday. Barnes had impressed in 108 innings at Double-A Portland this season, striking out 135 batters while walking 46 and posting a 4.33 ERA. He probably won't factor into Boston's starting rotation to begin 2014, but the former University of Connecticut product doesn't appear too far away.
• Red Sox starters have posted a 1.36 ERA over the last seven games. They've held opponents to two runs or less in all seven games.