Former Rangers catcher duo faces off

Former Rangers catcher duo faces off

DETROIT -- Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Gerald Laird were on opposites sides of a lineup card on Friday.

The last time that happened was more than 13 months ago in a Rangers intrasquad game in Surprise, Ariz. This time, it was the home opener for the Tigers, and Laird was behind the plate in his first game against his old teammates.

"It's another game, but it's exciting," Laird said. "It's exciting to play on Opening Day against these guys. I still have a lot of friends on that team that I still stay in communication with. It will be fun."

Those friends include Saltalamacchia. They battled for playing time while together on the Rangers and neither was never really satisfied with any arrangement devised by manager Ron Washington. But they were able to keep their unhappiness from spilling over into their personal relationship.

"I was telling [Taylor Teagarden], Gerald is a good guy," Saltalamacchia said. "He was cool. It was a tough situation. Nobody knew what was going on. He was being told one thing, I was being told one thing, and I think we were being told the same thing. The second half of last season, we just let it go and did our thing."

Laird was the Rangers' Opening Day catcher the past two seasons, but Saltalamacchia started cutting into his playing time after being acquired from the Braves on July 31, 2007. At times Laird was the No. 1 catcher, and there were other times they had to share the position. It wasn't easy for either of them.

"It was tough last year," said Saltalamacchia, who started last season at Triple-A but was called up on April 25. "I think we finally got to the point where we both just said, 'Let's go out and play,' rather than complain. It didn't do any good going to the coaches, the front office or to other players. People got tired of hearing about it and said quit talking about it. So we just went out and did our jobs. That's what we are here for."

Saltalamacchia started 52 games for the Rangers, while Laird started 86. The situation was finally rectified in the offseason when Laird was traded to the Tigers for pitchers Guillermo Moscoso and Carlos Melo. He is now the Tigers' everyday catcher, starting basically three out of four games. His backup, Matt Treanor, who was acquired from the Marlins in the offseason, started on Thursday against the Blue Jays, but Laird was back in there against the Rangers on Friday.

Saltalamacchia also sat on Thursday against the Indians because of an inner-ear infection that was causing some dizziness, and Teagarden started instead. Saltalamacchia's condition has cleared up and he was ready to go on Friday.

Like Laird, Saltalamacchia is getting a chance to play every day. Washington made it clear from the beginning of camp that Saltalamacchia was his No. 1 catcher and Teagarden would be the backup.

"He deserves a chance," Laird said. "It was cluttered up there for a while, now I'm glad he gets a chance. He deserves it, both him and Teagarden."

T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.