He had to pull over to the side of the road and get out of his car to hear president of baseball operations Michael Hill and then-general manager Dan Jennings clearly, the audio being obfuscated by the cries of his newborn daughter in the backseat. Saltalamacchia was on his way home from the hospital after his wife had given birth to their fourth child -- all daughters -- and he was shocked to hear that he was being asked to go on the disabled list.
He was shocked because he wasn’t injured.
Saltalamacchia had zero interest in rehashing the details -- he already did that last year while with the Arizona Diamondbacks, when he told reporters he was asked to go on the DL to work on his swing in the wake of his declining production. Saltalamacchia did not oblige. One day later, he was designated for assignment. He was later released by the team entirely.
“There was a lot of surprise. I mean, gave birth to my kid and then three days later, I got released. So I mean, there was a little bit of that side of it, but it’s got nothing to do with the guys over there. It’s got nothing to do with the coaching staff over there,” Saltalamacchia said. “It is a business. I understand that. I’ve got a great family at home and I’m able to move on pretty easily.”
It’s difficult to imagine there was not an extra bit satisfaction when Saltalamacchia smacked a two-run home run against his former team in his first at-bat of the season, but the 30-year-old veteran didn’t air out any grievances following an outstanding performance in the Detroit Tigers' 7-3 win on Wednesday, expressing nothing but respect for his former compatriots in the opposite dugout.
“I’ve moved on. I’m over here now. I’ve love those guys over there. I made a lot of great friends, great teammates, but I’m glad I was able to come over and help my win tonight.”
Saltalamacchia’s two-run shot in the second inning wasn’t his only contribution of the night. Earlier in the game he made a superb throw to connect with Ian Kinsler at second base and catch Dee Gordon on a steal attempt.
It was the type of play that won’t attract as much attention on the box score, but it still made reverberations in the clubhouse.
“He had to put it right there to get that guy out. [Gordon has] been the best base-stealer in the game the last couple of years. That’s what he had to do right there to make an out and he did it,” said Kinsler, who made an excellent tag on the play as well.
Saltalamacchia drove in another pair of runs with a double to right field, allowing him to finish with four RBIs in his Tigers debut. The last time Saltalamacchia recorded four RBIs was on Sept. 13, 2013, when he was still playing with the Boston Red Sox.
The Tigers felt good about adding his pop from the left side of the plate in free agency, and his production Wednesday came in handy, especially with stud youngster Jose Fernandez on the mound versus a Tigers lineup chock-full of right-handed hitters.
“He was huge for us tonight on both sides of the ball, both offensively and defensively,” manager Brad Ausmus said.
Wednesday would have been a perfect opportunity for Saltalmacchia to gloat against his former team -- which, by the way, is still paying him what is owed on the remainder of his three-year, $21 million contract (minus his Tigers salary) -- but he has better things to worry about.
New team. New season. Fresh start.
“I’m happy where I’m at right now,” Saltalamacchia said. “I’m excited to be with these guys. We’re grinding for the same reason, to win a World Series, so everything that happened in the past is in the past.”