Of the handful of questions regarding this potentially dynamic Red Sox team, one stands out.
Catching. Who is this guy?
One scouting report described Jarrod Saltalamacchia this way: "There are some concerns about his defense, primarily his glovework and game-calling ability ... has had issues with throwing the ball back to the pitcher.
Well, that about covers it. The report does say he throws out runners "at a decent clip,'' something Red Sox catchers have not been known to do.
Having explored the acquisition of John Buck and Russell Martin, and making at least some effort to bring Victor Martinez back, the Red Sox look ready to go with Salty.
For a decade, catching was the most reliable of positions on the Sox. Now it's the most unpredictable.
What may go a long way toward determining Saltalamacchia's success is how his pitchers accept him, especially with Jason Varitek's Rushmore-like presence looming over his shoulder.
Josh Beckett is a Varitek man. And who knows how Daisuke Matsuzaka will react?
Varitek is ready to serve as a willing and able mentor, but that is ony part of the equation. The pitchers must accept the student, not the mentor, as their No. 1 catcher.
They eventually did so with Martinez, and Clay Buchholz, in particular, was a Martinez man.
But V-Mart was an All-Star, an imposing presence. Saltalamacchia is a total unknown, the wild card in this star-studded Red Sox deck.
There are also questions about Varitek, who turns 39 in April. Early in 2010, he looked great.
His broken foot in midseason denied us the chance to see if his body would hold up over the long season, even as a backup. Varitek wound up playing 39 games.
If Saltalamacchia struggles, and a platoon develops with Varitek seeing frequent time, the stamina question will come up again.
Judging Salty is impossible now. Only 25, he has struggled with injuries, not to mention a case of the "yips,'' involving the fundamental task of throwing the ball to the pitcher.
The Red Sox are convinced that problem is solved. His game-calling is said to have improved.
He is a switch-hitter, which the Sox seem to require of their catchers, and is a decent batter with some power.
If he works out, Theo Epstein's supposedly nondescript 2010 trade deadline deal for him will be a steal. If not, the Red Sox will be left to rely on Varitek or trade for a catcher, where they will almost certainly have to overpay with young talent to get anyone decent.
But for now, Red Sox fans should give Salty the benefit of the doubt. It's the right thing to do.
Besides, they have no choice. But Saltalamacchia was a hot prospect as recently as 2007, and he's still no older than Varitek or Carlton Fisk were when they established themselves as major leaguers.
If Salty works out, this lineup will be hard to beat in the 2011 season.
Ron Chimelis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Reprinted with permission from The Republican.