A Grain of Saltalamacchia

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A Grain of Saltalamacchia

When Bobby Valentine speaks, you always listen. But whether or not you believe him is an entirely different story.

Thats because sometimes Bobby V. seems to just say stuff for the sake of saying stuff. Just to make a headline. Just to hear himself speak. Just to I dont know sometimes hell deliver a quote and all you can do is shake your head, think Where the hell did that come from? and then move on like nothing ever happened.

For instance, there was the time in Spring Training when he pretended to criticize Derek Jeter for his flip in the 2001 ALDS. Or a few weeks back, when a Wednesday afternoon win in Baltimore had him dreaming of World Series glory. Or last Wednesday, when he said that Jarrod Saltalamacchia had turned into an All-Star.

"He's turned a big corner,'' Valentine said of Salty. "In the last couple of weeks, I've seen a player turn into an All-Star -- an absolute player who you can count on, who's got it. He's understands what's needed out of him and he's delivering it.

Honestly, when I originally heard that quote, I thought nothing of it. In fact, Im pretty sure I laughed: Yup, theres Bobby V., up to his old nonsense-spewing antics.

But a few days later, Im starting to think that maybe old Bobby V. is on to something.

Last night at Fenway, Saltalamacchia hit his 10th home run of the season, which not only makes him the second Sox player (after David Ortiz) to reach double digit dongs, but also gives him more homers than any catcher in baseball. Seriously. Hes now the Major League-leader. Hes also tied for third among MLB catchers with 10 doubles, ranks in the top 10 with 24 RBI and is hitting a wildly-respectable .281.

Sure, his .160 CS is one of the worst in the league, but given recent Red Sox history, thats not all on him. And hes made up for his lack of throwing guys out with his ability to earn the respect of this pitching staff. Hes found a rhythm with the delicate Josh Beckett, built a line of communication with the insane Alfredo Aceves and really just taken control of the situation.
Sure, maybe hes not Jason Varitek, but for all the talk of how Varitek was an irreplaceable cog in the pitchers success, and how no one in the world could call a game or manage a staff like Tek! Saltys made a pretty seamless transition into the big chair. All while making a level of noise with his bat that we hadnt heard from Tek in years.
When you look around the American League, you have to assume that Joe Mauer whether he deserves it or not will be voted in as the starting All-Star catcher. And even though hes having a slightly down year, Mike Napoli is another guy who can probably book his flight to Kansas City.

After that, theres one catchers spot left, and right now, I dont see how anyone is more deserving than Salty. I think its time to actually, and unbelievably, consider the fact that Jarrod Saltalamacchia might be headed to the All-Star game.

At which point Valentine will probably declare him a candidate for MVP.

Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrich_levine

Quotes, notes and stars: Porcello has ability to adjust

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Quotes, notes and stars: Porcello has ability to adjust

Quotes, notes and stars from the Red Sox' 8-0 win over the Yankees:

QUOTES:

"He threw all four pitches tonight for strikes, but most importantly, (he's shown) the ability to make adjustments from pitch-to-pitch. If he gets out of whack or misses with a pitch, he's right back in the strike zone.'' - John Farrell on Rick Porcello.

"You look back at the first month and I think we've gained a lot of trust in each other up and down the lineup. That to me is the strongest attribute right now on this team.'' - Farrell on the Red Sox after one month of play.

"Pretty similar. I'm getting a lot of timely hits, and it's helping the team.'' - Jackie Bradley Jr., asked if this last week is similar to the hot streak he enjoyed last August.

"I'm comfortable. I'm in a good place, mentally and physically. I worked really hard to get where I am now and I'm going to continue to work.'' – Bradley on his hot streak.

"Much better fastball command. I've been able to execute my sinker better and that's allowed me to get ahead of hitters and if I do fall behind, I've been able to come back.'' - Porcello on cutting his walk rate by more than half compared to this point a year ago.

NOTES:

* The shutout at Fenway was the first for the Red Sox against the Yankees since May 14, 2011.

* The eight-run margin was the biggest margin in a Red Sox shutout over the Yankees since Sept. 6, 2003 when they won 11-0 in New York.

* The four triples in April for Jackie Bradley Jr. are the most for a Red Sox hitter in that month since Jose Offerman in 1999.

* In his last nine games against the Yankees, Bradley is 14-for-31 (.452) with nine extra-base hits.

* Rick Porcello's 5-0 start to the season is the best run for a Red Sox starter since Josh Beckett was 7-0 in 2007.

* The Yankees have failed to homer in seven games this season; they're 0-7 in those games.

STARS:

1) Jackie Bradley Jr.

Bradley had three extra-base hits (two triples and a double) for eight total bases, and knocked in three runs.

2) Rick Porcello

The Red Sox starter tossed seven shutout innings and allowed only two baserunners into scoring position while issuing just one walk.

3) Mookie Betts

Betts had a double in the second and a single in the sixth, good for three RBI, a season high for him.

First impressions from Red Sox' 8-0 win over Yankees: Bradley on a tear

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First impressions from Red Sox' 8-0 win over Yankees: Bradley on a tear

BOSTON -- First impressions from the Red Sox' 8-0 win over the Yankees:

* Rick Porcello doesn't seem like a weak link in the rotation now.

Porcello blanked the Yankees for seven innings and is now 5-0 with a 2.76 ERA for the season. For the fourth time in five outings, he pitched into the seventh innings.

The Yankees threatened only once - in the fifth, when they had runners at the corners and two out. But Porcello got Jacoby Ellsbury to ground out, stranding two and was never in trouble again.

Porcello's command is improved over a year ago. In his first five starts last year, covering 30 innings, he walked 10. This year, he's pitched 32 2/3 innings and issued just five walks.

* Jackie Bradley is swinging it like he did last August.

Bradley went on an extra-base tear late last summer, rocketing doubles, triples and homers for a stretch of a few weeks that was completely unexpected.

The last week has been like that stretch, with seven extra-base hits in the last seven games. He knocked in the first run of the night with a double to left, then delivered another in the sixth with a triple to the triangle and two more in the seventh with a triple into the right field corner.

In the two games against the Yankees, he's got four extra-base hits, a walk and five RBI.

* David Ortiz has started 20 games this season. He's knocked in 19 runs.

Ortiz added his second homer in as many nights, to go along with a single and walk.

It's doubtful that he's going to keep up his RBI-per-game pace, but when he's locked in the way he is now, he impacts virtually the entire lineup from the cleanup position.

* If you think Pablo Sandoval was bad, maybe you haven't been watching Chase Headley.

The Yankee third baseman was a free agent the same winter that Sandoval was and some argued that he would have been a better fit for the Sox than was Panda.

But 22 games into the 2016 season, Headley has yet to collect a single base hit and has an OPS of .405. He's hitting .153 and has virtually no range to speak of at third base.

* A lot has changed for Junichi Tazawa.

A year ago, Tazawa was overworked in the first half of the season. On Saturday night, he got an inning of work in the ninth in a blowout game because he hadn't pitched since last Sunday -- thanks to strong starting efforts from the rotation over the past two series.