Salty: Regular ABs helping boost HR numbers

Salty: Regular ABs helping boost HR numbers

KANSAS CITY -- The question for Jarrod Saltalamacchia snuck in during a larger question. Asked how much regular at-bats have helped him get back to where he wanted to be at the plate, the question was raised: Are you back to where you want to be as a hitter?

Saltalamacchia, having homered for the third consecutive game earlier Tuesday evening in an 8-6 Tigers loss to the Royals, laughed.

"I would say so," he said.

Saltalamacchia batted 2-for-29 with the Marlins last April before being released. Add in his midseason stop in Arizona, and he had eight home runs and 23 RBIs for the season. He now has five home runs and 14 RBIs this season.

He had another three-game homer streak last September with the D-backs. But he has never had a start quite like this. No Tigers catcher has.

The Tigers have had some legendary catchers in their history. None homered five times within the first 12 games of a season until Saltalamacchia, the eighth catcher in Major League history to do so since 1913. The last to do it, John Buck in 2013, was also a former Miami Marlin, having been traded twice in the previous offseason before homering in four straight games for the Mets.

Buck was the Mets' regular catcher at the time. Saltalamacchia didn't pick up starting duties until the sixth game of the season, after James McCann sprained his ankle. Saltalamacchia has homered in four of five starts since.

Tuesday's drive might have been the most impressive. It came batting right-handed, his weaker side as a switch-hitter, against Royals lefty Danny Duffy. Saltalamacchia was hitless off lefties this year until that, 0-for-8 with four strikeouts.

He seemed set up for another, having fallen into an 0-2 count with back-to-back foul balls. He shrugged off a curveball and a changeup before Duffy went back to the breaking ball in a spot where Saltalamacchia could center it.

"He threw the slider that he probably wanted to get in the dirt but left it up," Saltalmacchia said. "I didn't pull off of it. I stayed [with it]. So that's a plus for me."

It was big, turning an 8-2 game into an 8-5 contest. It also wasn't cheap, going 423 feet out to straightaway center field at Kauffman Stadium, where the ball doesn't tend to travel well.

To get back to the original question, yes, the regular at-bats are helping. While McCann is out of the walking boot and moving around normally, he's still a ways from baseball activity, so Saltalamacchia remains the regular starter for at least the next few weeks.

"I think power numbers are solid contact numbers," he said. "In the long run, you get more at-bats, you see more pitches, you don't miss as many pitches. When you're not playing every day, you get what feels like one pitch an at-bat. You may get one at-bat, and then a week later you get another one. You don't try to do too much. You try to just make contact, get the ball in play and see what happens. So more at-bats obviously means I don't feel the pressure that I have to do it every time."

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.