Originally written on NESN.com  |  Last updated 1/24/13
Now that the Red Sox have officially signed Mike Napoli, he figures to be the club’s starting first baseman on Opening Day. The Sox still need a backup, though, and that could become an even important role given the uncertain future surrounding Napoli’s health. One player currently on the Red Sox who apparently hasn’t had any conversations regarding playing first base is catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia. “I haven’t had any conversations about first base,” Saltalamacchia told WEEI.com. Saltalamacchia, who played in 121 games last season, recorded just two innings down at first base, both of which came during a 14-1 win over the Indians on Aug. 12. In his career, Salty has tallied 40 games (35 starts) at first base, most of which came during the 2007 season, when he split time between the Braves and Rangers as a result of a midseason trade. There hasn’t been much to indicate that Red Sox skipper John Farrell will consider using Saltalamacchia down at first, but with David Ross and Ryan Lavarnway also in Boston’s backstop mix and there clearly being a need for a backup first baseman, it’s easy to wonder if Salty might eventually get a look. For now, however, Saltalamacchia is just focused on preparing for his usual catching duties, which is quite all right with him. “When I catch, that’s when I play my best,” Saltalamacchia reportedly said. “I’ve learned that about myself. I’m a better player when I catch, and catch on a regular basis. I think that’s something a lot of people learned last year.” It’ll be interesting to see what Farrell elects to do in terms of a backup to Napoli, who, while symptom free, is battling a hip condition that forced the Red Sox to renegotiate their original deal with him. General manager Ben Cherington said recently that the club is considering options outside the organization, or perhaps Mauro Gomez, who has displayed plenty of power in the minors, could become an option. Saltalamacchia, while unsure of how playing time will be spread out among Boston’s three catchers, is still going through his usual preparation before spring training. “I’ve had a few conversations with Farrell and every conversation is great,” Saltalmacchia told WEEI.com. “He told me, ‘Listen, we signed Ross to complement you. You’re going to get right-handed at-bats.’ Stuff like that. I’ve been happy with it. I’m just looking going into spring training having already gone through the mental grind of the game, so it’s just best to go out there and let your play show for itself. You can’t control what the manager does. We have to go out there, and if the manager says, ‘You’re going to play one day this week and get two at-bats,’ that one day and those two at-bats have to be the best they possibly can be. I just have to be prepared at the max level.” Saltalamacchia, who sputtered down the stretch in 2012, will be looking to regain the form that made him a borderline All-Star in the first half of last season. It’ll be especially important for him, too, as the 27-year-old is slated to become a free agent after this season.
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