Jarrod Saltalmacchia, the catcher who made national news in May when he had trouble throwing the baseball back to the pitcher, left the Oklahoma City RedHawks on Saturday, en route to joining the Boston Red Sox organization.
The parent Texas Rangers traded Saltalammachia to Boston for Class A first baseman Chris McGuiness, short-season Class A pitcher Roman Mendez, cash considerations (reportedly $350,000) and a minor league player to be named.
"Obviously I'm excited," Saltalammachi said before leaving the RedHawks' clubhouse Saturday. "I want an opportunity to get back up there and prove what I can do. But I'm just excited to kind of start over and see what happens."
As first reported by Okcredhawks.com in the spring, Saltalamachia had trouble returning the ball to his pitcher in a May 11 game in Oklahoma City. Twelve of his throws landed either short of the mound or in center field. He had five errant throws in the first inning alone.
"I think those problems are over. I think everyone has seen that," said Saltalamacchia, who will fly from Dallas to the Red Sox' Triple-A team at Pawtucket, R.I., on Sunday. He was batting .244 with 11 home runs and 33 RBIs in 63 games for the RedHawks.
Saltalamacchia, 25, was always the first player to the RedHawks clubhouse on game days. He was somewhat of a loner and has been ostracized by some teammates in the past, perhaps in part because his wife of five years, Ashley, is 14 years older and was a gym teacher at his high school.
"He's different," RedHawks manager Bobby Jones said. "I don't know how many friends he had in the clubhouse, but he was never disruptive and never a jerk. I mean, he's just in his own little world."
When he was dealing with throwing problems, Saltalamacchia was badgered about it by media from across the country. Several outlets descended on AT&T Bricktown Ballpark. But the catcher handled all of the inquiries with class and patience.
"It's been a long year, obviously," Salty said. "Ups and downs with the throwing and a lot of stuff I had to deal with, but I'm always confident that the hitting's going to be there. It's just been one of those years."
The usually even-keeled Saltalamacchia was upset when the Rangers called up Max Ramirez on April 27. Salty, batting .333, thought he deserved the callup more than Ramirez, hitting .265. Salty had been the Rangers' Opening Day catcher, and even had a game-winning, walk-off hit that day. But he was injured in that game and assigned to Oklahoma City on injury rehab April 20.
"As a player, when you've been up in the big leagues and you think you're ready and they take somebody else, yeah, it gives you an attitude," Jones said. "You get mad, and you should get mad. That's your right, because if you think you're playing well and you think you deserve that chance and they give it to somebody else, you're going to mad at the organization. It's only natural."
So, Salty got mad about not being called up.
"But he was only mad a day or so and he never carried it onto the field," Jones said. "He never came in here and asked me, 'Why?' I didn't know why because I didn't make the decision, you know?"
A few days after Texas chose Ramirez instead of Saltalamacchia, on May 2, Salty was batting .405 with five homers and nine RBIs in 10 games for the RedHawks.
But he hit only .214 after that, with 24 RBIs in 53 games.
It wasn't a matter of not trying.
"He came in and did his work. He was in the (batting) cage all the time," Jones said. "He and I had this throwing program that (Texas farm director) Scott Servais put in. He threw every single day. He never missed a day. He was great. I never had a problem with him on anything.
"He was upset with the organization when they took Max up, but he played through it. That's just the way it goes. It's out of his hands and he realized that and he just kept going, hoping that somebody would give him a shot."
Now he's going to get a shot with the Boston Red Sox.
Boston general manager Theo Epstein called Salty after the trade was made Saturday.
"Theo welcomed me to the Red Sox," Saltalamacchia said. "It was a lot of good, positive stuff. He said they want me to get started right away. So they want me to get up there and work with their coaches. They're really excited about the deal going down."
Salty will join the Pawtucket Red Sox of the International League, who are fourth in the six-team IL North with a 47-60 record. Pawtucket has used four catchers this year. They are batting .202, .209, .237 and .238.
Saltalamacchia, who has the longest last name in Major League Baseball history, said he'll gladly make the long trip Saturday to Pawtucket, R.I. I'll go to Triple-A, get to know the organization and work with those guys and move on from there."