FORT MYERS, Fla. - Jarrod Saltalamacchia is getting more opportunities to hit right-handed this spring -- and making the most of them.
Saltalamacchia, a switch-hitter, had 405 at-bats last season but only 53 came against lefthanded pitching as then-manager Bobby Valentine preferred to use either Kelly Shoppach or Ryan Lavarnway against lefties.
Saltalamacchia struggled from the right side, hitting just .170 with a single homer and six RBI. Almost half of his at-bats (22 of 53) resulted in a strikeout when hitting righthanded.
"I've been working on a lot with (Greg Colbrunn, hitting coach),'' said Saltalamacchia, "and there are some things that he's said that really clicked. It's just getting that comfort of getting some at-bats and seeing some pitches -- not just fastballs, but seeing curveballs and changeups -- and getting the timing down.''
Saltalamacchia said he's been led to believe that he'll get a "good amount" of at-bats against lefthanded pitchers this season.
"I don't think it's going to be every lefty,'' he said, "but at least I've shown that I can do it enough so that it's not going to be a matchup type of thing. That's what I want. I want to get some at-bats and get that timing.''
Saltalamacchia said the biggest change is mostly mental.
"In the past,'' he said, "I had limited at-bats (from the right side), so I'd walk up thinking, 'OK, put the ball in play; don't strike out; do something.' Right away, you're putting a negative thought in your head and it's never good. (My approach now is) just letting it be free and don't change anything, just take a good swing.''
"Not just today, but also in previous games in lefthanders, he's swung the bat well against them,'' said John Farrell. "The one thing he's done is he's gotten some fastballs in some hitter counts and he hasn't missed them. He's also taken some good swings on first-pitch fastballs with lefties and so far, so good with that.
"He's balanced at the plate and I think, just talking to him in-between at-bats, he feels pretty good about himself at the plate right now -- on both sides.''