Tigers' Saltalamacchia isn't forsaking right swing

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News
Catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia takes batting practice.

Lakeland, Fla. — Jarrod Saltalamacchia, a switch hitter, hasn’t gotten a lot of work from the right side of the plate the last couple of years. He’s taken just 142 hacks right-handed, compared to 520 left-handed. 

And he was signed by the Tigers primarily as a much-needed left-handed bat off the bench. So it not a surprise that he's taken the majority of his batting practice swings from the left side the last few days. 

“Nah, I did it because my swing from the left side feels like crap,” he said. 

Saltalamacchia isn’t about to abandon his right-handed swing, regardless of how underused it may be. 

“Nowadays some teams carry more guys in the bullpen and some don’t,” he said. “You don’t know what they are going to do, so you’ve got to work on both sides equally. That is something I was taught when I first started switch-hitting. You’ve got to work both.”

Certainly if he’s up in a key spot late in a game, teams will want to bring in a left-handed pitcher to force Saltalamacchia to hit from the right side. Over his career, he’s hit .251 with 77 home runs and a .772 OPS left-handed and .212 with 21 homers and a .621 OPS right-handed.

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“I did well (hitting right-handed) when I was starting earlier in my career but then they started (platooning) me and (Jason) Veritek when I first got to Boston – he was killing lefties and I was hitting righties,” he said. “When I got the full time role again, my numbers weren’t as good right-handed. But then last year, my numbers started going up.”

He hit .293 right-handed last year.

Machado willing

Dixon Machado celebrated his 24th birthday Monday and as far as he knows, his position is still shortstop — only shortstop.

There have long been rumblings within the organization that Machado will be moved to second base. Ian Kinsler seems ageless, but he will be 34 in June and the Tigers could buy him out of his contract in 2018. 

Thus far, though, nothing has changed.

“They don’t say anything to me,” Machado said. “They said last year that they just wanted me to play shortstop. I haven’t taken any balls at second, but who knows, maybe tomorrow.”

Machado said he is willing to do what the club needs.

“I just want to be in the big leagues,” he said. “If I have to start playing second base, I am fine with it. Just keep working. I’ve never played second base, maybe once the first year I signed. It would feel weird but it might not be that hard.

“You want to play the position you’ve played all your life, but I just want to be in the big leagues and help the team win. You have to be ready for whatever.”

Super team

In the fall of 2007, when catcher James McCann was going into his final year of high school in southern California, he played on a fall scout ball team with Anthony Gose, Gerrit Cole, Aaron Hicks, John Lamb and Mike Montgomery, all future big leaguers. 

Not too shabby. 

At the time, Gose was fire-balling left-handed pitcher who threw in the upper-90s.

“We played twice at Angels Stadium because we were the Angels scout team, but every other game was on a junior college field where the lights weren’t very good,” McCann said. “I remember trying to catch guys like Gose and Cole. I was like, ‘I can hardly see the ball and you want me to catch a guy throwing 100 mph?’”

Around the horn

All the Tigers position players with the exception of Kinsler had checked in by noon Monday. Kinsler was expected to get into Lakeland later in the day. Closer Francisco Rodriguez is still working through his visa issues in Venezuela.

…First base coach Omar Vizquel has his beloved No. 13 back. Alex Avila had occupied the number the first two seasons Vizquel had been with the team.