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Prized pupil: Saltalamacchia learned the right way from Varitek

Saltalamacchia's focus is mainly on what happens behind the plate these days.

No one knows what catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia is going through right now better than Jason Varitek.

Saltalamachhia is in a major slump at the plate. Going into Sunday’s game he was three for his last 34 with 20 strikeouts in that span.

But Saltalamacchia knows the way he performs behind the plate and how he handles the Red Sox pitching staff is more important, for the time being, than how he swings the bat.

“Right now, it’s not going too well but you know what, my job is behind the plate,” Saltalamacchia said after a game last week. “So, I haven’t been contributing much at the plate but I think I’ve been doing pretty well behind the plate, and that’s what matters most, getting these pitchers through the game and anything else is a bonus.”

For Saltalamacchia, Varitek is the one who gave him that attitude.

“I’ve always felt that way anyway but seeing what (Varitek) has been through in his career and knowing what he’s done in his career, it felt a little better to have him say that to me,” he said. “That’s just the fact of the matter, that’s what it is. I need to get these pitchers through the game.”

Now that Varitek has retired and is no longer with Saltalamacchia on a day-to-day basis, the 27-year-old is realizing just how much he learned from the man who spent 15 years behind the plate with the Red Sox.

“You don’t realize how much you learn when you are with him everyday,” Saltalamacchia said. “I am now kind of seeing the effects now of what it was like to be with him everyday.”

Meanwhile for Varitek, watching the way Saltalamacchia has played this season has meant a lot to him.

"Everybody started to appreciate what Salty's doing more when he has 10, 12, 13, 14 home runs,” Varitek said. “He was catching the ball, throwing the ball and doing the right things behind the plate well before that. The offensive recognition gave him recognition for something that he was doing superbly behind the plate. But those aren't statistics. Those aren't things that allow people to hold onto.

“To see those things is such a joy, just watching him catch at the beginning of the season. The way he's catching the ball, the way he's moving, the way he's doing things, it's nice. His work and everything he's gone through the last year and a half and before that, it looks good."

With the way Varitek always seemed to battle through rough times at the plate, it should be only a matter of time before Saltalamacchia comes around.

 
 
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