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06/02/10 10:59 AM ET
Saltalamacchia moving past throwing issue
Catcher confident he will soon be back in the big leagues
By Chris Cox / MLB.com
OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. -- Catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who three weeks ago had a terrible time simply throwing a baseball back to the pitcher, said he feels like his problems are over and he should be close to returning to the Rangers. The Rangers aren't ready to bring him up yet, but Saltalamacchia said that with improved mechanics and daily work with Triple-A manager Bobby Jones, he has overcome the throwing issues that threatened to wreck his return to the Major Leagues. The Rangers' Opening day catcher has been at Oklahoma City since April 20. "It's been night and day," Saltalamacchia said. "Just from a throwing aspect, I've come a long way. My confidence has gone up a lot. I'm just ready to get back up there and perform. "I think I deserve to be there ... it's just the throwing that's been the issue," Saltalamacchia said. "But I've made strides in that and I've proved to a lot of people that I can get through it. It's not been the prettiest thing, but it has gotten there and it's fine. I'm just ready to get back up there." The Rangers at this point have been trying to get by with veteran backup catcher Matt Treanor and rookie Max Ramirez. General manager Jon Daniels said he's been encouraged by Saltalamacchia's recent improvements but was non-committal on a possible return. "He continues to make progress," Daniels said. "We're probably going on two weeks where we've had all positive reports. That's what we need to see." After the previous setbacks, Daniels isn't in any rush to make a decision on Saltalamacchia. The Rangers believe the situation shouldn't be pushed until he's completely ready to return to Arlington. "He's hitting well, handling the pitching staff and his throwing has improved," Daniels said. "But more than [any] one area, we want to make sure he's comfortable before we consider anything else." Saltalamacchia is aware that no one will know for sure what will happen until he returns to the Rangers. "Obviously, it's a different stage when you get to the big leagues. You've got 35,000 looking at you. That aspect of it, we won't know until I get there," Saltalamacchia said. "But I feel like I'm making strides and I'm getting by. That's the biggest thing, is just getting by right now. And I think I'm doing that." Despite the injuries and struggles he's endured since last August, Saltalamacchia is determined to not allow it to get the better of him and prevent him from ultimately returning to the Rangers. "It's been real tiring. It's a mental roller-coaster," Saltalamacchia said. "Every day it's something new and you've just got to be mentally tough and you've got to stay on top of it. "But I'm not going to let it beat me." Saltalamacchia hit rock-bottom on May 11 in a game against Sacramento, when he reportedly made 12 errant throws to the pitcher, including five in the first inning alone. But he believes like he's finally over what has kept him in the Minors since he was originally placed on the disabled list April 8 with back and shoulder stiffness. Since then, he's been working to fix the problem by throwing with Jones prior to each game. "He has been out there with me every single day," Saltalamacchia said. "Every day before batting practice we go out there and play catch. He just stays on top of me and my mechanics, staying on top of the ball. I really owe a lot of credit to him." The back and shoulder problems surfaced during the 2009 season, before doctors diagnosed Saltalamacchia with thoracic outlet syndrome. He had surgery in September to fix the problem but shut down twice in Spring Training because of pain and muscle spasms. He was the in the Opening Day lineup and delivered the game-winning single in a 5-4 victory over the Blue Jays. The next day he started experiencing more pain and stiffness in his back and shoulder and was placed on the disabled list. Fifteen days later, the Rangers decided to option Saltalamacchia to Oklahoma City and leave him there until there was absolutely no doubt his issues had been resolved. Saltalamacchia's offense hasn't wavered despite the struggles, either. He's currently hitting .296 with six home runs and 16 RBIs and had a 16-game hitting streak earlier this season. "In Spring Training me and [Rangers hitting coach] Clint [Hurdle] worked on a lot of stuff and I brought that up here and have just been comfortable. ... I've just been putting good plate appearances together and making every at-bat count," Saltalamacchia said.
Chris Coxis an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.