MIAMI -- Jarrod Saltalamacchia still collects pay from the Marlins after they released him last April in the middle of a three-year contract. Wearing a Tigers jersey in his first return to Marlins Park since the move, he was owning them.With a caught stealing of Dee Gordon and a two-run
MIAMI -- Jarrod Saltalamacchia still collects pay from the Marlins after they released him last April in the middle of a three-year contract. Wearing a Tigers jersey in his first return to Marlins Park since the move, he was owning them.
With a caught stealing of Dee Gordon and a two-run home run off Jose Fernandez, ex-teammates both, Saltalamacchia won't soon forget his Tigers debut or his Miami return, a four-RBI performance in Wednesday's 7-3 Detroit win.
It was a two-game sweep for the Tigers, and a bittersweet reunion for Saltalamacchia, who added a two-run double off reliever Dustin McGowan for good measure after Fernandez left in the sixth.
"I've moved on," Saltalamacchia said. "I'm over here now. I love those guys over there. I made a lot of good friends, a lot of good teammates. But I'm glad I was able to come over and help my team win tonight."
The Tigers signed Saltalamacchia over the offseason for $508,000, just over the veteran Major League minimum, to back up starting catcher James McCann. The bulk of Saltalamacchia's $8 million salary is being paid by the Marlins, who signed him to a three-year, $21 million contract as a free agent after he won a World Series with the 2013 Red Sox.
Just over a season into the deal, Saltalamacchia was 2-for-29 at the plate when the Marlins released him at the end of April.
"There was a lot of surprise," he said. "We gave birth to my kid and then three days later I got released. But it's got nothing to do with the guys that are over there. It's got nothing to do with the coaching staff that was over there. It is a business. I understand that. So I've got a great family at home and I was able to move on pretty easily."
The veteran finished the season in Arizona as a part-time starter before signing with Detroit and beating out Bryan Holaday for the backup catcher job in Spring Training.
Saltalamacchia, the only Tiger booed by Miami fans during Opening Day introductions Tuesday night, got the start Wednesday afternoon against Fernandez, whom he caught in all eight of the ace's starts in 2014. The catcher had never faced Fernandez as a hitter, but Saltalamacchia knew enough to keep expectations low and admitted being charged up to face his former teammate.
Down in an 0-2 count his first time up, Saltalamacchia got a breaking ball that Fernandez left up just enough for him to drive off the facing of the right-field upper deck, scoring J.D. Martinez for a 2-0 Detroit lead in the second inning. It was Saltalamacchia's first home run at Marlins Park since last April 12.
"Fernandez is extremely tough on anybody, especially right-handed hitters," manager Brad Ausmus said. "The majority of our lineup is right-handed. The reason for Salty is just to get a left-handed bat in the lineup. He made me look like a genius."
Saltalamacchia had played a key role in preventing a Miami lead an inning earlier. He threw out 19 percent of would-be basestealers the past two years, but his combination of a quick release and an accurate throw gave second baseman Ian Kinsler a split-second to tag Gordon before he could put his hand on second base.
It was a huge out for Tigers starter and fellow ex-Marlin Anibal Sanchez, who had allowed 67 stolen bases with just nine baserunners thrown out since becoming a Tiger in 2012.
"Perfect throw," Sanchez said. "He threw right in the spot to get this guy out. [Gordon's] fast. I know he's going to be running at some point, so I need to hold the ball. Salty, he did his job."
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and listen to his podcast.