LINCOLN â As Bill Lee and Bob Montgomery swapped stories and shared laughs Wednesday afternoon at Kirkbrae Country Club, the former Red Sox pitcher-catcher battery took time to address some of baseballâs hidden truths that todayâs coaches and players like to put a different spin on.
Lee and Montgomery clarified to an audience of 400 or so that once the regular season starts, the idea of working or fine-tuning something gets pushed to the backburner. An erstwhile sort whoâs not afraid to pull any punches, Lee explained further, saying he cringes whenever he hears a pitching coach talk about âweâre working on this and that.â In his eyes, the time to iron everything out is spring training.
Once bell sounds on the regular season, âyouâre not working on anything anymore,â said Montgomery following the conclusion of the âWelcome Home, PawSoxâ luncheon. âYouâre working on one thing: to get somebody out.â
What that in mind, Montgomery was asked for his views on current Red Sox catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia. Montgomery admits he hasnât seen Saltalamacchia enough to offer a concise scouting report, but he does know that what Theo Epstein wants, the general manager usually finds a way to get.
âHeâs one of those players that the Red Sox seem to get an affection for and come one way or another they wind up getting them. They did it with Julio Lugo and J.D. Drew and theyâve done it with Saltalamacchia,â Montgomery said.
Montgomery says thereâs plenty of blame to go around regarding Bostonâs early season pitching woes. Heaping everything on Saltalamacchia isnât entirely fair, he feels.
âIâm disappointed with whomever was calling the game, whether it was (Saltalamacchia) or the pitching coach (Curt Young),â said Montgomery, referring to the number Rangers hitters did on Red Sox pitchers during last weekendâs season-opening series. âWhen you have a guy on the mound like Daniel Bard who throws 98-99 miles per hour, and youâre trying to get hitters out with changeups, thereâs something wrong there. He has enough experience, but maybe he doesnât want to change a pitch on his own. I have no idea what their guidelines are (in relation to who calls the pitches).â
The fact Saltalamacchia got off to a dreadful start offensively â against the Rangers he went hitless in 10 trips with five strikeouts â doesnât concern Montgomery.
âI donât care if my catcher hits .195,â said Montgomery. âEvery catcherâs preference should be to handle the pitching staff and calling a solid game. You have to be a psychologist to be a catcher. You have got to know what you can say to get on a pitcher. There are some pitchers you have to get after, others you have to pat them on the back and give them a little hug in order to get the best result.â
Following Josh Beckettâs stat Monday night against Cleveland, NESN compiled a graphic that broke down what the right-hander threw during his 106-pitch outing. It turns out that Beckett deployed 57 fastballs, 27 changeups, 16 curveballs and six cut fastballs â a pitch that Montgomery is not particularly fond of.
âI donât like cut fastballs. Beckett had a good curve when he came to Boston. Guys who have good curveballs and learn to throw a cut fastball lose their curveball because itâs two different deliveries with the pitch. You lose the sensation of throwing the curve,â Montgomery noted. âI wish (Clay) Buchholz didnât throw cut fastballs. I donât like that, but thatâs me. But for Beckett to have thrown fewer curveballs than changeups, thatâs a little backwards to me. Then again, Iâm not in on what theyâre trying to do there.â
In any event, Montgomery doesnât feel the lack of variety in Beckettâs pitch selection is the fault of Saltalamacchia, who was behind the plate.
âIf he is you catcher, he has to catch,â Montgomery said. âHeâs not going to get better at learning his staff by taking games off because heâs 0-for-10. Heâs certainly not tired because the season just started.â