DETROIT - As it was for his team, the season got off to a difficult start for Jarrod Saltalamacchia. Going 2-for-4 on the last day of April pulled his average for the month above .200, to .216. Still, he had more strikeouts than hits for the month, 16 to 11. Of his 11 hits, just three were for extra bases, all doubles.
Appointed the Red Sox primary catcher in the offseason, the adjustment behind the plate also was not easy.
"This is such a huge position," said manager Terry Francona. "Things were going kind of quick for him. And I think it's slowed down for him. Jason Varitek has taken a little bit off his plate, which has helped."
In May, Saltalamacchia has started to find a comfort zone. He is hitting .265 for the month, with 13 hits to 10 strikeouts, three doubles and four home runs. He is batting .240 for the season, with four home runs, and 15 RBI. His numbers are not where he would like them to be, but they're moving in the right direction.
"I feel more comfortable," Saltalamacchia said. "I think for the first time in a long time right-handed, started tracking the ball better. Not swinging at bad pitches. Every once in a while you're going to, but I've been seeing the ball real well.
"Me and hitting coach Dave Magadan have been working since spring training but things started to get locked in a little bit when we had that talk. I've been hitting the ball just never had anything to show for it. I get to bat righty maybe once a week. You hit two balls out of three hard but there's no hits. But I think it's been starting to fall in now. I was hitting the ball hard to right, hitting the ball off the wall. But just little things like that trying to see the ball better."
Right-handed, he's hitting .233 (7-for-30) with two home runs and five RBI. As a lefty he's hitting .243 (17-for-70) with two home runs and 10 RBI.
"Right's been my dominant side so I've never really worked more on the right or more on the left, "he said. "But since I struggled from the right side more because I only get a few at-bats, got to do more. But we got a good routine going. Do a little tee work and flips. Just little things that Mags gives me to trigger me in when game time comes."
Saltalamacchia and Magadan had their talk early in April, during the first homestand. The Sox returned from their season-opening road trip 0-6. Saltalamacchia had just one hit in 14 at-bats, with one RBI, one walk, and six strikeouts. The talk with Magadan helped.
"I started off bad," Saltalamacchia said. "I was starting to hit everything out in front, pull everything. We had that talk and talked to him, Adrian Gonzalez, David Ortiz, all of them. And they said the same thing: 'You're a great hitter' which is something I never really heard before. I always just thought about my catching. So, just that little boost of confidence obviously felt good."
And that little boost of confidence can make a big difference.
"Yeah, and it goes into getting some hits," Saltalamacchia said. "You get some hits, you start getting a little more confident. They roll into each other."
MaureenMullen is on Twitter at http:twitter.commaureenamullen