Notes: Saltalamacchia here to stay
Rookie to serve as backup catcher and first baseman
WASHINGTON -- Jarrod Saltalamacchia's stay at the Major League level is going to last much longer than two weeks and it appears that Scott Thorman is going to be given the chance to play first base on a regular basis.
This became evident Thursday morning, when Braves manager Bobby Cox explained what the team planned to do now that it has given Craig Wilson his unconditional release.
While platooning at first base with Thorman, Wilson proved to be an offensive liability. In 58 at-bats, he hit just .172 with two RBIs and 25 strikeouts.
"He just never got it going like we thought he would," said Cox, who informed Wilson of the decision in his hotel room at about 7:15 a.m. ET on Thursday.
Wilson's release didn't come as much of a surprise. There was building reason to believe that the club wanted to keep Saltalamacchia around and provide him regular playing time by platooning him at first base with Thorman.
But like he did for Thursday afternoon's game against the Nationals, Cox says he plans to give Thorman a regular chance to start games in which the opposing team is starting a southpaw. Thorman .293 with a .424 slugging percentage against left-handed pitchers at Triple-A Richmond last year.
"Most of the time against lefties, yeah [Thorman] is going to start," Cox said. "He's hit them his whole life."
If Thorman gets regular playing time against lefties, this obviously would limit the potential playing time for the switch-hitting Saltalamacchia. But it appears the Braves are going to be comfortable giving him occasional time at first base and primarily using him as their backup catcher.
Brayan Pena, who had been on the disabled list since suffering a concussion on May 1, was activated from the disabled list before Thursday's game. But there's a chance he will be sent to the Minors by the time Friday arrives.
Not knowing what to expect out of Anthony Lerew, who is scheduled to start Friday's game in Boston, and John Smoltz, who will take his dislocated right pinky to the mound on Saturday afternoon, the Braves need some insurance.
Thus they may take Pena off their 25-man roster to make room for Mark Redman, who threw five scoreless innings for Richmond on Sunday. It was the first time he'd pitched since having an ingrown toenail removed earlier this month.
Salty ready to stay: When he was brought up to replace the injured Pena, Saltalamacchia was given reason to believe his stay in the Majors would last just two weeks. But since his arrival, he's given the Braves reason to believe he's ready to be a key contributor from both an offensive and defensive standpoint.
"I felt ready coming up here, not really knowing what to expect," Saltalamacchia said. "I've felt good at the plate and taken good at-bats. If you can play the game, they're going to find a spot for you. Hopefully that's something that I've done."
Saltalamacchia, who started behind the plate for Thursday afternoon's series finale against the Nationals, has hit .250 and struck out just once in his first 12 at-bats. Behind the plate, he has retired three of the four opponents attempting to steal against him.
"I like him a lot," Cox said of the 22-year-old catcher. "He's a good receiver and he's always had a strong arm. He's shown us a lot."
Cox says he's not concerned about the fact that Saltalamacchia won't be able to develop while playing on an everyday basis. He plans to use him as a catcher at least once a week and will also give him occasional time at first base.
Although he hasn't played first base since high school, Saltalamacchia feels confident about his ability to play the position. Over the course of the past week, he's regularly been taking ground balls there.
"I'll do anything to help out," Saltalamacchia said.
Johnson sits: Cox's decision to use Chris Woodward as his second baseman had nothing to do with the fact that Kelly Johnson committed a costly error that led to Wednesday night's loss. He simply wanted to give Johnson what he believed to be some much-needed rest.
"I've been trying to get him a day off for about a week," said Cox, who this past weekend told Johnson to begin reducing the amount of early afternoon hours that he was spending taking groundballs.
Johnson's day off ended up being a short one. He entered Thursday's game in the sixth inning as part of a double switch.
Coming up: The Braves will open Interleague Play with a three-game series against the Red Sox at Fenway Park this weekend. They'll send Anthony Lerew (0-1, 6.52) to the mound on Friday night. The Red Sox haven't announced who will replace Josh Beckett and start the series opener.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.