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Jarrod Saltalamacchia

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2003 Bowman Heritage Rainbow #279 Jarrod Saltalamacchia

Jarrod Scott Saltalamacchia
(Salty)

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Jarrod Saltalamacchia made history in 2007 when he made his major league debut. Having 14 letters in his last name, he had the longest surname in MLB history, breaking the mark of 13 shared by 15 players: Gene DeMontreville, Ossee Schreckengost, Lou Schiappacasse, Lee DeMontreville, Bonnie Hollingsworth, Bill Knickerbocker, Al Hollingsworth, Ken Raffensberger, Austin Knickerbocker, Kirk Dressendorfer, William Van Landingham, Todd Hollandsworth, Steve Wojciechowski, Tim Spooneybarger and John Van Benschoten. The old record had stood since the 19th Century.

In the 2001 World Youth Championship, he hit .316/?/.474 as the main catcher for the Gold Medal-winning USA. Saltalamacchia hit .348 as a high school senior. He was chosen by the Atlanta Braves with the 36th pick in the 1st round of the 2003 amateur draft, a supplemental pick for the loss of Mike Remlinger to free agency. Jarrod was signed by scout Alex Morales for a $950,000 bonus. In 2003, he hit .239/.382/.396 for the GCL Braves and .214/.267/.286 in 9 games with the Danville Braves. In the Gulf Coast League, he led catchers with 35 assists, but also with eight errors. Baseball America rated him the #3 prospect in the GCL.

JarrodSaltalamacchia.jpg

In 2004, Jarrod played for the Rome Braves and hit .272/.348/.437. Baseball America ranked him as the #7 prospect in the South Atlantic League and also as the 7th-best catching prospect in baseball, between Kelly Shoppach and Russell Martin.

Saltalamacchia had his best minor league season yet in 2005, hitting .314/.394/.519 for the Myrtle Beach Pelicans. He hit 19 home runs and 35 doubles, the most in the Braves minor league chain. Baseball America named him the top catcher in the minor leagues and the top prospect in the Carolina League, ahead of Anibal Sanchez and Nick Markakis. He made the Carolina League All-Star team, having finished third in average and led in intentional walks (11). He followed up by hitting .565 in 23 AB for the Peoria Javelinas of the Arizona Fall League.

The prospect struggled in 2006, only hitting .230/.353/.380 for the Mississippi Braves. Baseball America still rated him the #10 prospect in the Southern League between Sanchez and Miguel Montero. In the qualifying tournament for the 2008 Olympics, he backed up Kurt Suzuki at catcher while also serving as the team's primary DH. He batted .250/.368/.406.

Saltalamacchia started 2007 with a .309/.404/.617 line with 18 runs in 22 games for Mississippi. When Atlanta's top two catchers, Brian McCann and Brayan Pena, were both injured by swung bats on May 1, Saltalamacchia was called up to be Atlanta's backstop.

In his first game with Atlanta, Jarrod went 0 for 2 with a walk and a time hit by pitch on his 22nd birthday. In his first MLB at-bat, he flew out to Aaron Rowand against Freddy Garcia. When Pena returned, Saltalamacchia remained on the roster, with the team releasing Craig Wilson. To get him some playing time, Atlanta also used him at first in lieu of Scott Thorman. Saltalamacchia hit .284/.333/.411 in 47 games for the Braves. He was then involved in the big trade deadline deal, getting sent to the Texas Rangers with Elvis Andrus, Neftali Feliz, Matt Harrison and Beau Jones in exchange for Mark Teixeira and Ron Mahay. Saltalamacchia played a key role within a month, in the highest-scoring game in American League history, on August 22nd, as Texas scored 30 times against the Baltimore Orioles. Saltalamacchia scored five of those runs, drove in seven and hit two homers to lead the offense. He spent most of 2008 and 2009 with the Rangers, getting into 61 and 84 games, and hitting .253 and .233. The Rangers were disappointed with his offensive output, however, and sent him back to the minors in 2010, then on July 31st traded him to the Boston Red Sox for three minor leaguers. He ended up playing only 12 games between the Rangers and Red Sox that year, hitting only .167.

However, Boston had big plans for Saltalamacchia, with long-time starting catcher Jason Varitek obviously nearing the end of the line. Salty was the starter with Varitek the back-up in 2011, and he played a career-high 103 games, hitting only .235 but with 23 doubles and 16 homers. Varitek retired after the season, and Jarrod then played 121 games in 2012, with similar results: a low batting average (.222) but good power for a catcher (17 doubles and 25 homers). However the Sox had a terrible season, finishing in last place, and were not ready to commit to Saltalamacchia over the long run, especially as his defense and handling of pitchers was considered below average. Given a very good defender as a back-up in the person of veteran David Ross, he had his best season in 2013 however, hitting .273 with 40 doubles and 14 homers, scoring 68 runs and driving in 65 as the Sox bounced back to win the AL East title. Playing in the postseason for the first time, he went 3 for 10 in the ALDS, but them slumped to .188 in the ALCS. Things continued to go badly in the World Series against the St. Louis Cardinals. After Ross started Game 1, he went hitless in the next two games, both of which the Red Sox lost, and both times largely because of defensive lapses on his part: in Game 2, he was charged with an error when he dropped a throw from LF Jonny Gomes that allowed the winning run to score in the 7th; in Game 3, he made an ill-advised throw in the 9th, trying to retire Jon Jay at third base, starting a string of events that led to Jay scoring the winning run on an obstruction call a few moments later. Manager John Farrell replaced him with Ross in Game 4, and the back-up caught the next three games which the Sox all won to clinch the title. In fact, that was the end for Salty as a member of the Red Sox: on December 3rd, he signed a three-year free agent contract with the Miami Marlins, worth $21 million.

Sources: 2002-2007 Baseball Almanacs, MILB.com, IBAF website

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