Championship run bittersweet for Salty

Championship run bittersweet for Salty
October 31, 2013, 7:30 pm
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Jarrod Saltalamacchia was not tendered a qualifying offer by the Red Sox.

(AP Photo)

BOSTON – Jarrod Saltalamacchia stood in the middle of the Red Sox rowdy, raucous, and rocking clubhouse after the team’s World Series-clinching Game 6 victory over the Cardinals, doused in champagne and beer as the acrid smell of celebratory cigars filled the air.

Saltalamacchia said he knew early on he would be part of a championship team.

“Spring training,” he said. “It’s cliché and everybody says it: ‘Spring training is when we knew.’ But I really do believe this team felt in spring training like we were going to win it. And throughout the course of the year and how well we played together, and everything we went through. We just needed to stay healthy. That’s been the key in the past, and everybody stayed healthy this year and played thru a lot and that just says it all.

“In spring training there was no one guy that said, ‘Hey, we’re going to win.’ We all felt that way...it wasn’t an easy ride but we were able to ride it out.”

There was no doubt in his mind, he said, at any point in the season that this is where he and his team would be.

“No, not with this team,” he said. “With the way we go about our business, and prepare every day, there wasn’t a doubt in my mind. I don’t think anybody in the clubhouse doubted it.”

Saltalamacchia, though, was not on the field for the final out of the clinching game. His starting role had been taken over by David Ross. Saltalamacchia appeared in just two World Series games, going hitless in six at-bats with two walks and four strikeouts. Overall, he hit .188, going 6-for-32 with one extra-base hit, a double, three walks, and 19 strikeouts this postseason, his first taste of the playoffs.

Watching from the bench was not a concern.

“No, it’s about winning,” he said. “That’s why we’re here. We want to win. Obviously everybody wants to be out there. There was 20 or 15 outer guys that want to be out there. But at the end of the day we want to win

“Can’t say enough about Ross. I respect him. He’s helped me out so much this year. I can’t ask for anybody better to go out there and take the reins the last few games.”

And now, Saltalamacchia doesn’t know if he has played his last games with the Red Sox. With the conclusion of the World Series, teams have five days to extend qualifying offers to players who can become free agents. On the sixth day, teams lose their exclusivity period and players are free to sign anywhere.

Saltalamacchia is one of the Red Sox’ free agents-to-be. The championship celebration became even more meaningful to him.

“It was tough because of the fact I don’t know if this is going to be my last year here,” he said. “I took everything in and enjoyed every minute of it.

“This whole posteason I’ve been enjoying every pitch, every out, knowing that it could be the last, tonight especially. I was looking in the stands and seeing everybody, just looking at the jersey and enjoying every minute of it. Hopefully I can be back.”

Saltalamacchia joined the Sox in a deadline day trade with the Rangers in 2010 to be a backup to Jason Varitek. He was one of six catchers the Sox used that season, as the team was racked by injuries. Saltalamacchia eventually earned the starter’s job, before being relegated to the bench for the final games of the World Series.

“It changed my career,” he said of his time in Boston. “I was kind of stuck in a spot where I didn’t feel like I was wanted or needed or going to be able to go anywhere. And then I came over here and it was just night and day. I felt wanted, felt it was a team that knew what I was capable of doing, and they actually gave me a chance. I can’t thank these guys enough, what Tek and [former bullpen coach Gary] Tuck did for me. Obviously my family for being with me every step of the way.”

For now, though, he’ll just enjoy this championship.

“There’s a sense of relief,” he said. “When you win the ALDS, ALCS, it's a feeling of accomplishment but there’s a next step. It’s not over.

“Tonight was let your hair down, let your beard down, and just enjoy.”