Saltalamacchia rewards Valentine's confidence

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Saltalamacchia rewards Valentine's confidence

CHICAGO -- Jarrod Saltalamacchia was hitless in his last 17 at-bats and his batting average had dipped to .247.

Given that, it seemed like an odd time for his manager to make him the Red Sox' cleanup hitter. But that, Bobby Valentine reasoned, was precisely the point.

"Actually, I think he's been hitting the ball very well and hitting into lousy luck,'' said Valentine. "He knows that I totally believe in him. I saw his average go from .280 down to (.240-) something and the team was losing and I saw him dragging his head a little and I thought (hitting him cleanup) was a way for him to understand I believe him.''

Message received.

Saltalamacchia doubled in his first at-bat, smashed a two-run homer in his next at-bat, putting the Red Sox on their way to a 4-3 win over the Chicago Cubs.

"I was happy, excited,'' said Saltalamacchia of his reaction to his new spot in the lineup. "(It meant I would) get some more at-bats, get some opportunities to get some more RBI. I was happy with that.''

Saltalamacchia launched a split-finger fastball from Cubs starter Jeff Samardzija in the fourth inning into the bleachers in right field.

"He threw me a split that I swung through and missed,'' recounted Saltalamacchia. "Then he tried to throw it again and this one was a little more in the strike zone and I was able to put the barrell on it and hit it out.''

Saltalamacchia said the boost of confidence from the manager was exactly what he needed.

"It felt good,'' he said. "I talked to him a little bit as I was walking out (Friday) night and he said, '(The hits) are going to start falling because you've been swinging the bat well. It's kind of what was happening at the beginning of the season. I was hitting the ball hard, but right at people.

"That's kind of what I thought was happening the last few games - hitting the ball well, but right at people or right to the fence. It felt good to have a little confidence (shown in me) to hit in the four-hole.''

Sandoval 'starting from scratch' after career fell 'into an abyss'

Sandoval 'starting from scratch' after career fell 'into an abyss'

The Pablo Sandoval redemption tour is underway as the former World Series MVP tries to revive his career after two disastrous seasons with the Red Sox organization.

In an interview with ESPN Deportes, he admits to being “complacent” during his first two seasons in Boston after signing a five-year, $95 million deal. 

"My career had fallen into an abyss because I was so complacent with things that I had already accomplished," Sandoval said. "I did not work hard in order to achieve more and to remain at the level of the player that I am and that I can be."

After dealing Travis Shaw to the Brewers, Sandoval is expected to be the Red Sox primary third baseman in 2017.

"I am not taking anything for granted," he said. "I am here to work hard. I'm not thinking about the position or not. I am starting from scratch, and I am here to show what I can do on the field."

The 30-year-old says he’s following a “really strict routine” this offseason, and it shows. In a recent photo, Sandoval appears noticeably thinner. Sandoval says his wife giving birth to “Baby Panda” has served as inspiration.

"Watching 'Baby Panda' grow up and that he gets the opportunity to see his father play in the majors for seven, eight more years, to get back to the success I had, that's my motivation every day," Sandoval said. "The people that I surround myself with now and my family, they are the key to my success. This has been a life lesson."

Tanguay: Could Red Sox ownership be going for it now, then sell the team?

Tanguay: Could Red Sox ownership be going for it now, then sell the team?

Could John Henry sell ownership of the Boston Red Sox anytime soon, or does he want to keep winning?  Shaughnessy, Merloni, and Tanguay debate.