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07/27/08 4:08 PM ET
Saltalamacchia to back up Laird
Rangers to go with experience instead of work in progress
By T.R. Sullivan / MLB.com
OAKLAND -- Jarrod Saltalamacchia had a short meeting with manager Ron Washington and assistant general manager Thad Levine after the Rangers' 9-4 victory over the Athletics on Saturday. Saltalamacchia didn't say much, and he wasn't thrilled with what he heard. He was basically told by Washington that Gerald Laird will be the No. 1 catcher down the stretch. "I definitely don't want to be a backup," Saltalamacchia said. "But there's nothing I can say about it. I did what I could do while I was in there; now they've made a decision to go the other way." Laird started on Sunday for the first time since June 20 after being sidelined for over a month with a pulled right hamstring muscle. Before Laird got hurt, he and Saltalamacchia shared the catching duties. Saltalamacchia did most of the work while Laird was out and the Rangers were 12-7 in the 19 games with Saltalamacchia behind the plate. But Washington wants Laird's experience as the Rangers go down the stretch and try to stay in contention for a playoff spot. "I want to make sure we have some cohesiveness," Washington said. "And there's the experience factor. I don't think anybody is complaining about the job Salty did, and I don't think anybody's complaining about the job Gerald did. I had to make a call, and I did." The Rangers refer to Saltalamacchia, 23, as a work in progress, especially on the defensive end. Offensively, he is hitting .232 with three home runs and 24 RBIs in 47 games and 164 at-bats, but it's still the defense that concerns the Rangers. "No. 1, his game-calling can always get better," Washington said. "I'm not getting on him; I'm just talking about what he can improve. No. 2, blocking balls. No. 3, continue working on his throwing. No. 4, understanding catching is most important. All of it together is a process. It takes time. It's called experience." The situation could change quickly. The July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline approaches, and the Rangers have four catchers who are coveted by various teams. The Yankees and the Reds have been among the most vigorous in talking to the Rangers about Laird in particular. But teams have also asked about Saltalamacchia, Taylor Teagarden and Max Ramirez. The Rangers are demanding top young pitching in return for any catcher traded and teams so far have been reluctant to do that. "There's certainly interest in the industry, across the board, in all four of our catchers," Levine said. "But as we sit here today, there's nothing imminent and nobody is forcing our hand, nor are we pressed to make a decision." So, right now, Laird will catch the majority of the games and Saltalamacchia will back him up. Ramirez has been optioned to Double-A Frisco for two games, then will go to Triple-A Oklahoma. He will replace Teagarden, who is joining the U.S. Olympic team on Monday. Nobody really knows how this will all end up in the long term, only that Laird has the job for now and Saltalamacchia is on the bench. "I honestly believe I'll be fine," Saltalamacchia said. "My time is coming, when it comes I have to take it and run with it. Gerald was playing well. I can't say anything bad about him. He deserves the job as much as I do. We'll see what happens."
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.