Third base is just one of many positions the White Sox don’t have settled for next year. Tyler Saladino and Mike Olt could at least be options.
And if it comes down to them in 2016, manager Robin Ventura would be comfortable.
“They can handle third base. A lot goes into that over the offseason but you’re looking at guys that can hold down a position, you know they can play it,” Ventura said before Sunday’s game against the Minnesota Twins. “For me, it’s important that they can play it (and) catch the ball. They don’t have to make the outstanding, unbelievable play but you want guys to make the routine play and occasionally make a great one. They can do that.”
Olt, once one of the top prospects in baseball with Texas, was claimed off waivers from the Cubs on Sept. 5 and has gotten off to a strong start with the Sox. In six games he’s batting .333 and has impressed Ventura with his defense.
Saladino debuted July 10 and started well offensively but is hitting .241, though his defense has also been solid.
“You don’t want to sit there and say, ‘This is the guy, that’s going to be the guy’ so you know that right now. However, you do want to have options, you do want to have depth and some versatility,” Ventura said. “I know Mike can play a little bit of first base. You can move him around a little bit. He has some options and that’s important.”
Saladino could also be an option at shortstop next season and is playing there Sunday, hitting second.
Torii Hunter is batting sixth and playing right field for the Twins, and Sunday could be his final game against the Sox if he retires after the season. Ventura, however, isn’t expecting Hunter to ride off into the sunset when his one-year deal with Minnesota expires at the end of the season.
“I don’t think (Hunter is retiring). He can play another year,” Ventura said. “He’ll probably play another year.”
Hunter, 40, signed a one-year contract to return to Minnesota in the offseason after spending two seasons in Detroit. He’s hitting .236 with 18 homers and 65 runs batted in but has struggled in the second half of the season. Since July 1, he’s hitting only .184 with a .239 on-base percentage and has just six home runs.
Regardless of his struggles recently, Hunter has enjoyed a strong career and was a big part of the Sox-Twins rivalry. He’s also gained Ventura’s respect.
“He’s a tremendous player. I think you respect those guys that play the game the way he has, even as a young player he did that. Makes everybody better around him,” Ventura said. “Having been around him, he’s just good for the game. I think he’s good for their team to be able to have somebody in here. Nice to see him go back to Minnesota and kind of go full circle.
“Everybody in the league respects that guy just the way he goes about his business.”
Aches and pains
Avisail Garcia (back) was not in the Sox lineup. He was replaced before the third inning of Saturday’s game, and Ventura said he’s day-to-day. Ventura also said Rob Brantly has a “nagging knee thing.”