Duo of Martin, Salty ideal for Blue Jays

Duo of Martin, Salty ideal for Blue Jays

ST. PETERSBURG -- Unlike the last several years, the Blue Jays are not going to be locked into a certain pitching matchup when deciding how often their backup catcher gets into a game.

The days of needing a specific catcher for knuckleballer R.A. Dickey are over. Toronto eventually may settle on finding which pitchers work best with Jarrod Saltalamacchia, but for now Russell Martin's days off will be based more on need than who is throwing on a particular day.

Martin received his first day off on Friday night and was replaced in the lineup by Saltalamacchia as the Blue Jays suffered a 10-8 loss to the Rays. The fact that it was lefty Francisco Liriano on the mound for Toronto was a coincidence more than anything else and there's just as good of a chance that the next time Saltalamacchia sees the field, it will be for someone like J.A. Happ or Marcus Stroman.

"We'll see how everything evolves, who does what with what," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said prior to the loss. "You hate to get into 'this guy has this guy' and what have you. It's a tough staff to catch, there's no question about that."

Saltalamacchia's first stint with Liriano did not go well as the veteran lefty threw more balls than strikes and allowed five runs over just one-third of an inning before he was pulled. 

Toronto's overall approach to its catchers is a big change from the way things have operated in recent years. Josh Thole spent most of the last four years as Dickey's primary catcher and when he wasn't around, the club settled on using Dioner Navarro with finesse pitcher Marco Estrada. That limited Toronto's ability to give Martin a day off when he needed it and forced the club to be married to its pitching schedule.

This situation is more ideal. If Martin needs some rest, he'll get it. If Saltalamacchia eventually develops a close rapport with a member of the starting five, then adjustments can be made later in the year. That should be good news for the 34-year-old Martin, whose 137 games last season were his highest total since 2009 when he was 26.

"He likes to be in there, but he realizes a day here and there is going to be good for him," Gibbons said of Martin. "He doesn't like days off, but he's at that stage where I think he knows it will be good for him."

Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue Jays for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.