Saturday, March 8, 2014
By Kevin Thomas firstname.lastname@example.org
Catching questions are at the forefront of today’s tidbits.
The Red Sox didn’t make a qualifying offer to Jarrod Saltalamacchia, which would have committed Boston to paying him $14.1 million next year. But the Red Sox are reportedly interested in having him back on a two-year deal for less money.
Why not make a bigger commitment to Saltalamacchia, who was third among American League catchers with an .804 OPS (combined on-base and slugging percentage)?
Saltalamacchia, 28, is a switch hitter and won praise for his play-calling this past season.
But there remains questions about his defense. He ranked 11th in caught-stealing percentage (21 percent) among full-time American League catchers and was 2 of 20 in throwing out runners to third (and, yes, his errant throw to third base in Game 3 of the World Series does come to mind).
David Ross is back for at least one more year as a backup (or tandem) catcher. Boston doesn’t seem sold on Ryan Lavarnway, although he hit .299 in limited time, and Christian Vazquez may be a year or two away with Blake Swihart right behind.
So Boston appears to want a veteran to fill the gap for a couple of years. Seems they would take Saltalamacchia at the right price. If not, they will shop.
ASSUMING THAT Jacoby Ellsbury takes a big payday elsewhere, are the Red Sox sold on Jackie Bradley Jr. as a replacement? He batted .189 in 95 at-bats last year.
Bradley can more than fill in for Ellsbury in center, but Boston will need another leadoff batter (Dustin Pedroia has done the job before).
General Manager Ben Cherington likes depth, so Boston probably brings in someone else who can play center (even if only on a minor league contract). And if Ryan Kalish is healthy, he could be a factor.
WHILE TESTS ON MIKE Napoli’s hip have been positive, the Red Sox seem leery of going to a multiyear deal.
Maybe they aren’t convinced of his long-term health, and the memory of Mike Lowell is still present.
Lowell, the 2007 World Series MVP, signed a three-year deal after the Series but was eventually limited by a hip injury, averaging 100 games a season.
GARIN CECCHINI played only 66 games for Portland last year. He might be a candidate to return, but that’s hardly a given.
Bradley played 61 games for the Sea Dogs in 2012 (.271 average/.809 OPS) and wowed everyone in spring training last March. Because of injuries, he made the major league team for the opener and spent most of the year in Triple-A Pawtucket.
Cecchini hit .296 (.825 OPS) for the Sea Dogs. He’s playing in the Arizona Fall League (.277/.772) and was one of the three Boston prospects to make the league All-Star Game, with second baseman Mookie Betts and reliever Noe Ramirez.
Not surprisingly, the personable Cecchini was nominated for the league’s Dernell Stensen Sportsmanship Award.
OTHER ARIZONA LEAGUE players from Boston include Betts, the future Sea Dogs infielder. He’s batting .271. Ramirez, who finished the year with Portland, has a 1.93 ERA.
First baseman Travis Shaw didn’t make the All-Star Game but he is shining with a .361 average, five home runs and a 1.157 OPS. Shaw, who had a disappointing 2013 (.221/.736) could be due for a breakout year.
Infielder Derrik Gibson is batting .125 in Arizona in 40 at-bats.
Besides Ramirez, Keith Couch (4.05 ERA) and Mickey Pena (4.55) are pitching in Arizona. Couch is expected to compete for the Pawtucket rotation in 2014, while Pena will likely be back in Portland.
THE SEA DOGS made an impressive announcement this past week, showing off their new video boards. The main board is three times as big as the old one with a much clearer picture.
Sea Dogs officials are vowing to include more Red Sox highlights next season, a feature that has been missing in recent seasons.
And there should be other improvements (like a variety of Sea Dogs highlights and other features). Eventually replays from the game will be shown.
The fan experience, as they say, will be more enjoyable.
Kevin Thomas can be reached at 791-6411 or: