The Marlins didn’t send festive flowers to catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia after his wife gave birth to their child in April. They gave him a pink slip.
Not even one month into his second season with the team, the Marlins — frustrated with his poor results both at the plate and behind it — pulled the plug on Saltalamacchia, releasing him.
“It was weird,” Saltalmacchia said. “They called me as I was driving home from the hospital with the baby. The baby was screaming, so we had to pull over to finish the conversation.”
It was a costly decision for the Marlins. In parting company with Saltalamacchia, they were willing to eat the remainder of his contract, or about $15 million, a significant amount for a team that rarely spends big.
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But Saltamacchia turned into one of their biggest busts.
Last season, he hit just .220 with 11 homers, and his 15 errors were the most on the team. After starting off this season with only two hits in 29 at bats, and with the emergence of rookie catcher J.T. Realmuto, the Marlins bid him farewell.
Saltalmacchia was on three-day paternity leave when the decision was made. When the Marlins called him on his way home from the hospital, they asked if he would go on the disabled list to work on his swing. He rejected the idea outright.
“They wanted to put me on the DL and I was, like, no, I’m fine,” Saltalamacchia said. “And they were just like, well, we think you need to work on your swing, have some time with your family. And I was, like, no, I’m not going to go on the DL.”
One day later, the Marlins designated him for assignment before ultimately releasing him.
“In their defense, in their words, last year was the beginning of it,” Saltalamacchia said of his fall out of favor. “So it wasn’t just the way it started this year. It was the way it started last year, as well.”
Saltamacchia acknowledged he didn’t perform up to expectations, the team’s or his own. He missed time with a concussion, then ceded playing time to Realmuto late in the season.
But Saltalamacchia, who is now with Arizona, said his stay with the Marlins might have turned out differently if they had allowed him to play out his contract through 2017. As such, he said he doesn’t feel remorse over how it all turned sour.
“If I would have gotten to play all three years and [performed badly], then, yeah, it would have been frustrating,” he said. “I didn’t live up to it. But I didn’t get that opportunity. It’s more like I really didn’t have a chance.”
Saltalamacchia, who is currently on the disabled list with a strained neck, hasn’t suddenly blossomed to life in the desert. He’s hitting .213 with one homer, and struck out in 40 percent of his at bats.
“I didn’t get a fair shot this year,” he said. “But last year I did. I would have liked to have gotten a little more of an opportunity.”
Whether Mat Latos made his final start for the Marlins on Tuesday remains to be seen. With the July 31 trade deadline fast approaching, Latos is aware that he could be dealt at any time.
But if Tuesday’s outing was his last, at least he’ll go out a winner.
Returning from a freak toe injury, Latos kicked some sand on the Diamondbacks as the Marlins ended an eight-game road losing streak with a 3-0 win at Chase Field.
“Right now, I’m wearing a Marlins uniform,” Latos said. “I have to take care of business as a Marlin. This isn’t a one-man game, so I owe it to the other 24 guys in this clubhouse to give 110 percent until they kick me out of the clubhouse.”
Latos gave the scouts on hand these numbers to digest: seven scoreless innings, four hits allowed, seven strikeouts and only one walk. It was perhaps his finest effort as a Marlin.
Latos, like teammate Dan Haren, is set to become a free agent after the season and isn’t in the Marlins’ future plans, so trading him now is all-but-an-inevitability.
There have been reports that the Toronto Blue Jays are interested in both Latos and Haren, and the Marlins have been scouting Toronto’s farm system.
After watching Carter Capps mow down two Diamondbacks in Tuesday’s eighth inning, Arizona manager Chip Hale aired his complaints about the reliever’s unique delivery.
“It plays to the integrity of the game for me,” Hale said. “That’s just the rule. Your foot is supposed to be in contract with the rubber, at least close. He’s not even close. The league OK’d it. The umpires really have no say in it right now. The league said it is OK, and they have to let it go. It’s very difficult to watch.”
Capps lurches off the rubber, then drags his right foot on the mound before releasing the ball. The extra extension adds about 3.5 mph to his high-90s fastball, giving him the highest “perceived velocity” of any pitcher in the majors.
While the delivery has been scrutinized, the league approved it and several coaches and managers have come out saying it’s a legal pitch. Those include Boston Red Sox manager John Farrell and former Braves pitching coach Leo Mazzone.
“I think it’s something the league needs to look at,” Hale said. “I’m sure it does throw off some timing, but you’re also another foot closer to home plate. The rubber is in a certain spot because that’s the way the game is supposed to be played. So you’re basically throwing from a rubber that’s 12 inches forward.”
▪ Thursday: Marlins RHP Tom Koehler (7-6, 3.38) at San Diego Padres RHP Andrew Cashner (3-10, 4.10), 10:10 p.m., Petco Park.
▪ Friday: Marlins RHP Dan Haren (7-5, 3.46) at San Diego Padres RHP Ian Kennedy (5-9, 4.78), 8:40 p.m., Petco Park