As the Red Sox dressed after Sunday’s game and prepared for their seven-day road trip, catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia reached into his bag for a thin cotton tie with a camouflage print. It was a much bolder fashion statement than anything his teammates wore.
Where did he get the tie?
“I can’t say,” Saltalamacchia said. “It’s a secret. I don’t want anyone else to get it.”
The key to Saltalamacchia’s success Sunday afternoon — two home runs and four RBIs in a 10-5 win over the Angels — was a secret manager John Farrell didn’t mind revealing.
Saltalamacchia and hitting coach Greg Colbrunn have been focusing on hitting to the middle of the field, rather than the switch-hitter pulling the ball.
“It’s enabled him to keep the bat in the zone longer and he’s got better plate coverage,” Farrell said. “More consistent plate coverage.”
And more consistent production.
Over his last eight games, Saltalamacchia is hitting .367 (11 of 30) with five doubles, three home runs, and 10 RBIs. Sunday marked his fourth career multihomer game, but first at Fenway Park.
“The approach is just go up there and look for a good pitch to hit,” he said.
At times, Saltalamacchia still gets pull-happy. It happened in the third inning Sunday. He liked the pitch (a 90-mile-per-hour fastball), but tried to pull it and grounded to second.
But he reestablished his new approach in his next at-bat.
His first homer, a leadoff shot in the sixth, came on a 1-and-1 count and sailed over the wall in straightaway center field. It was immediately followed by a Mike Carp home run to the same location.
Saltalamacchia’s second homer came in the seventh inning. Angels reliever Robert Coello had just issued back-to-back walks with one out. Saltalamacchia liked the second pitch he saw, a 90-m.p.h. fastball over the plate. This homer, like the first, carried over the center-field wall to give the Sox a 10-3 advantage.
Saltalamacchia, who is 6 feet 4 inches and 235 pounds, has 49 homers since the beginning of the 2011 season, fifth most among major league catchers.
His problem has always been strikeouts. Saltalamacchia ranks second on the team with 61 — he fanned on an 83-m.p.h. changeup in the second inning Sunday — after leading the Sox in each of the last two seasons.
Saltalamacchia’s patience at the plate has improved, though. His on-base percentage of .341 is significantly higher than the .288 clip he posted in each of the last two seasons.
“There’s going to be some swing-and-miss in there sometimes,” Farrell said. “But with the approach [Saltalamacchia’s] locked in with right now, you look at a guy in the six-, seven-hole with that kind of power, I think it speaks to what our lineup has and the ability to put up runs quickly.”
Saltalamacchia, 28, is in a contract year. And he has made no secret about what his personal goals are.
“There’s no reason that I can’t catch 140 [games],” Saltalamacchia said. “That’s something I’ve always wanted to do and I didn’t get the chance last season, I started DHing at the end of the season.”
The Red Sox signed 36-year-old David Ross in the offseason as a veteran presence. Saltalamacchia has started 42 games this season; Ross has started 20.
“We’ve always viewed the catching position as a two-man tandem,” Farrell said. “Not even split in terms of games played, but we know it does take its toll on a guy physically.”
Farrell said the team is “not looking to run Salty into the ground.”
“There’ll be times where David will even get a game against a righthanded starter as well,” Farrell said. “In the meantime, hopefully the production continues.”
It’s no secret that Saltalamacchia wants the same.
Emily Kaplan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.