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Jarrod Saltalamacchia seeing sports psychologist

May 19, 2010, 3:45 PM EDT

Jarrod Saltalamacchia’s problems throwing the ball back to the pitcher at Triple-A have continued, so the 25-year-old catcher is now seeing a sports psychologist and Richard Durrett of describes the various things he’s trying to get over the “yips”:

He uses a timing mechanism–tapping the ball in his glove twice before throwing–to help him. And for the most part, he made strong throws to the mound. But the struggles did creep in at various points during the game. He made some low throws, one-hopping one in the ninth. He threw one ball into center field and another to the second baseman, both with no one on base. …

Saltalamacchia has also altered his grip on the ball. He used to throw with his index and middle fingers wide apart, almost like a splitter. He now has those fingers closer together. Saltalamacchia said he’s trying to keep all of it in mind without overthinking things.

Saltalamacchia is having no issues at the plate, hitting .338 with a .390 on-base percentage and .527 slugging percentage in 20 games at Triple-A, so getting over the throwing problems would likely get him back to Texas in a hurry.

I don’t think the organization is going to call me back up until I prove this is over with, and rightfully so. I know I can do it, so I don’t mind talking about it. At first I was like, “Just leave me alone.” But it’s out there and I have to deal with it. What’s frustrating me the most is this is the only thing keeping me from being back in the big leagues. I’m hitting. I’m catching. The only one thing is a simple throw back to the pitcher.

I think it’s a mechanical and mental issue. Once your mechanics change and you don’t have success, you think about it. It’s like you’re on a cliff and you tell yourself not to look down or don’t look at that pink elephant in the corner of the room. No one understands until they go through it themselves.

Texas’ catchers have combined to hit .188 with a .562 OPS that ranks second-worst in the league and Saltalamacchia has already had enough injury hurdles thrown in front of what was once a very promising future, so hopefully he can dispatch with the pink elephant and get his career back on track.

  1. rufe - May 19, 2010 at 5:37 PM

    Tell him to talk to Steve Sax. Probably be more helpful than a shrink.

  2. rufe - May 19, 2010 at 5:43 PM

    Tell him to talk to Steve Sax. Probably be more helpful than a shrink.

  3. Adrian - May 19, 2010 at 5:46 PM

    I had the opportunity to see Salty play in Double-A Mississippi when he was with the minor league Braves, and I was lucky enough to be in Atlanta when he hit his first major league home run. (Of course, he later went to Texas in the Mark Teixeira trade.) He has always had star potential and seems like an all-around good guy. I hope he gets over this bizarre issue and is soon able to continue his major league career.

  4. Evan - May 19, 2010 at 6:14 PM

    Dude, just like you know…throw the ball back the pitcher. It is really easy all you have to do is…throw the ball back to the pitcher, haha I mean what more do you really need to know or do? Like just throw the effing ball…back to the pitcher.

  5. copypastry - May 19, 2010 at 6:17 PM

    Totally 100% a mental issue. This happened to me in high school. Junior year I showed up to camp and for some reason, my arm seemed to have completely forgotten how to make a simple throw over 30 feet. The first few times it happened it was so embarassing that I started overthinking it way too much and that made it ten times worse.
    After a week of this torture I went on a previously scheduled weeklong vacation, came back, and had zero problems. Totally bizarre.
    You read about things like this happening to people and you wonder how it could be true that your mind can prevent you from making such a routine throw, but it definitely happens, and no one is more frustrated than the guy it’s happening to.

  6. Justin - May 19, 2010 at 6:42 PM

    Did he try reciting the articles from Playboy (a la Rube Baker from Major League 2)?

  7. Mark C - May 19, 2010 at 9:12 PM

    Yep,a completely mental issue. Remember Mackey Sasser of the Mets? He’d take a couple of crow-hops and triple clutch the ball behind his head before he threw the ball back. Same problem happened with Gary Bennett his last year in the majors with the Dodgers. Dodger management kept telling everyone he had a bad back or a bad foot or something, even put him on the DL, but you could easily tell he had the “yips”. He would stand up, either take one step to the side or a significant crow-hop and then throw a high archer that the pitcher could call a fair-catch on!

  8. Spotts1701 - May 20, 2010 at 2:15 PM

    Dale Murphy also had a similar problem – only his was that he couldn’t throw the ball down to second. The Braves moved him away from catcher to first base, and his throwing problem disappeared.

  9. Dentist101 - Jun 1, 2010 at 6:26 AM

    This happened to my daughter this past weekend she has been catching for years, she has D-1 coach”s loking at her as a 14 year old. Seems to be very little internet information in regaurds to treatment(If any)has anyone had this just go away?

  10. Shae - Jun 2, 2010 at 1:49 PM

    This same exact thing happened to me this year, my senior year, with my first start behind the plate in a regular season game. I couldn’t throw the ball 60 feet back to the pitcher. They were pathetic throws but i could throw it to 2nd and 3rd base on a line perfect. It took me almost a month to get over it, literally throwing the ball as hard as i could back at the pitcher to get it back to him. At first i thought it was nerves or pressure, but maybe it was the yips

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