Red Sox catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia has been sidelined with hip bursitis and will miss a few days behind the plate because of it. He did get some at-bats in during a B game on Saturday morning, going 2 for 5 and manager Bobby Valentine expects Salty to be able to recover in the coming days, possibly as early as Sunday.
This is the same type of injury that plagued Kevin Youkilis for most of last season that forced him to miss over 40 games. Even when he did return it was obvious he was in pain, wincing anytime a ball was hit to him at third that required him to shift his body quickly. I’m not saying that Salty will follow down that painful path, but there is certainly good and bad news from what appears to be a minor injury at this point.
First the bad. This could very well turn into a year long injury, one where we see Salty play in a handful of games only to be sidelined for a handful. An on/off type of scenario where he never really gets into a regular routine because of the bursitis, leaving a void at the everyday catcher position.
For most of last season Salty was productive both at the plate and behind it. He showed the poise to call a good game and was effective when base runners tried to steal, at least more effective than Jason Varitek. His offense started slow but picked up for a four month span before returning to a dormancy stage in September. He wasn’t the only one. What he did was show the talent that the Red Sox were hoping for when they acquired him from the Texas Rangers in 2010.
He has a history of injury but last year proved that when he’s healthy, Salty can live up to the hype that once surrounded him as a potential star catcher. If the bursitis lingers, I don’t expect a productive Salty this year simply because of the lack of repetition he’ll get in before being sidelined again.
The good news, if there is any is this. One man’s pain is another man’s gain and for Ryan Lavarnway, this could be his opportunity. When the Red Sox signed Kelly Shoppach it garnered a curious reaction. With Lavarnway showcasing his skills late last year, both power at the plate and his arm, it appeared that the backup catcher job was his. Then Shoppach comes aboard and suddenly Pawtucket looks like Ryan’s home for another year.
If Salty’s injury should linger it may give Lavarnway every opportunity to get the playing time he needs to once again prove he is the man for the job. Should the bursitis force Salty to miss an extended period of time and Lavarnway relish in the spotlight then perhaps it’s Saltalalamacchia who will be the odd man out come the trading deadline.
Time will tell if the hip bursitis is minor or if it turns into something more. Suddenly being three catchers deep isn’t a bad thing anymore for the Red Sox, giving them options behind the plate.