LINCOLN — 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 baseball’s hidden truths that today’s 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 who’s not afraid to pull any punches, Lee explained further, saying he cringes whenever he hears a pitching coach talk about “we’re working on this and that.” In his eyes, the time to iron everything out is spring training.
Once bell sounds on the regular season, “you’re not working on anything anymore,” said Montgomery following the conclusion of the “Welcome Home, PawSox” luncheon. “You’re working on one thing: to get somebody out.”
What that in mind, Montgomery was asked for his views on current Red Sox catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia. Montgomery admits he hasn’t 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.
“He’s 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 they’ve done it with Saltalamacchia,” Montgomery said.
Montgomery says there’s plenty of blame to go around regarding Boston’s early season pitching woes. Heaping everything on Saltalamacchia isn’t entirely fair, he feels.
“I’m disappointed with whomever was calling the game, whether it was (Saltalamacchia) or the pitching coach (Curt Young),” said Montgomery, referring to the number Rangers hitters did on Red Sox pitchers during last weekend’s season-opening series. “When you have a guy on the mound like Daniel Bard who throws 98-99 miles per hour, and you’re trying to get hitters out with changeups, there’s something wrong there. He has enough experience, but maybe he doesn’t want to change a pitch on his own. I have no idea what their guidelines are (in relation to who calls the pitches).”
The fact Saltalamacchia got off to a dreadful start offensively – against the Rangers he went hitless in 10 trips with five strikeouts – doesn’t concern Montgomery.
“I don’t care if my catcher hits .195,” said Montgomery. “Every catcher’s 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.”
Following Josh Beckett’s 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 – a pitch that Montgomery is not particularly fond of.
“I don’t 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 it’s two different deliveries with the pitch. You lose the sensation of throwing the curve,” Montgomery noted. “I wish (Clay) Buchholz didn’t throw cut fastballs. I don’t like that, but that’s me. But for Beckett to have thrown fewer curveballs than changeups, that’s a little backwards to me. Then again, I’m not in on what they’re trying to do there.”
In any event, Montgomery doesn’t feel the lack of variety in Beckett’s pitch selection is the fault of Saltalamacchia, who was behind the plate.
“If he is you catcher, he has to catch,” Montgomery said. “He’s not going to get better at learning his staff by taking games off because he’s 0-for-10. He’s certainly not tired because the season just started.”