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White Sox’ Saladino simplifies, gets results

Tyler Saladino had four home runs and 12 RBI going into the White Sox' final Cactus League game Wednesday. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

GLENDALE, Ariz. — For a guy with a good-field, light-hit reputation, Tyler Saladino packed a surprisingly good punch this spring. In 15 Cactus League games, the 26-year-old second-year infielder is 13-for-40 with five home runs, five doubles and 12 RBI.

He hit his fifth homer of the spring, tying for the team lead with Matt Davidson, against Reds right-hander Josh Smith after Smith had retired the first 10 batters of Wednesday’s Cactus League finale.

“I tried to simplify,’’ Saladino said of his approach to hitting this spring. “Make it is simple as possible, keep things to a minimum so the necessary adjustments are more minor than anything huge. Stay within a small work area.’’

Saladino, who can play all four infield positions, started at second base Reds alongside prospect Tim Anderson at shortstop and moved to third in the fourth inning. The Sox figure to give 37-year-old Jimmy Rollins most of the time at short, as long as Rollins continues to produce and handle the position, but Saladino will get plenty of innings at short to keep Rollins fresh.

Between Rollins (.341, four homers, 12 RBI this spring) and Saladino, the Sox got eight home runs and 24 RBI from the shortstop position.

“He definitely can play,” Rollins said. “He has some hands. We call him ‘Emanski’ [after the instructional video master] out there, he does everything so fundamentally sound.”

Rollins, who has mentored Anderson and Saladino in camp, said Saladino took to a suggestion about backhanding ground balls.

“And at the plate, he’s been swinging very well,” Rollins said. “He’s a strong hitter. You can see it. When I punch him in the stomach, it’s like hitting bricks right now. I’m like, ‘Man, it must be nice to be young, all your muscles are still tight.’ He’s good. He seems to have the confidence he can play here and that’s very big.”

Saladino, as California-chill as they come, is taking his good spring in stride.

“It’s good to have some good at-bats,’’ Saladino said. “Spring is time to work on stuff, and nothing counts, but this is the time you can mentally treat it like it doesn’t count so you can just keep working on things. That’s where I’m at.’’