Tyler Saladino gets it.
He’s aware he plays a game for a living. And while the baseball life is not without challenges, hardships or behind-the-scenes stress those who watch from the seats or a press box don’t always see, the 27-year-old southern California skateboard dude is trying to soak in every moment to the fullest.
“You only get so many days up here and you have to make the most of each one,’’ said Saladino, whose first day in the majors came to pass as the starting third baseman against the Cubs at Wrigley Field last July. “The day is going to pass when you’re not up here, and even if you are here for 10 years I’m sure it will seem feel like it flashes by.’’
In 66 games, Saladino, a seventh-round Sox draft pick in 2010, is batting .259 with six homers, 26 RBI and nine stolen bases. A valuable roster piece because of his versatility, Saladino, a shortstop by trade, played good defense at third base in 2015 and has started at second base since Brett Lawrie went down with a hamstring injury July 22. He has also played first base, left field, designated hitter and appeared as a pinch hitter and pinch runner.
That’s a lot of gloves in the equipment bag. And his diverse set of skills also includes “developing young clubhouse leader.”
“He has the ability to do that,’’ manager Robin Ventura said. “He’s a little bit of an older soul than his age suggests.”
“I’m just trying to make sure I’m having a good time with the guys win, lose or draw,’’ Saladino said. “You’re never going to get these times back. You’re making memories. So you try to make the most of each day.’’
Perhaps losing a best friend who died in a drunk driving accident when Saladino was 18 – a dragon tattoo covers his entire back as a tribute and reminder – brings perspective to his life. Saladino also was on track to be a September callup while having an All-Star season at AAA Charlotte in 2014 when he suffered a torn UCL, and that dream was dashed by Tommy John Surgery.
Perhaps taking a couple of shots to the chin equips Saladino to be something of a leader among the Sox young players. Rookies such as 2015 first-round draft pick Carson Fulmer will go to Saladino for counsel even though he’s not a veteran.
“He has a pretty good feel of what’s going on, and he’s a guy coming up in a unique situation playing all over,” Ventura said. “And right now he’s getting a stretch where he’s playing every day.
“He’s just a good team guy.’’
Saladino wants to be a good everyday player.
“Obviously,’’ Saladino said. “Realistically I’d like to be good at my job whatever it is, whether it’s playing every day or being an everyday substitutional kind of guy. I just want to be the best I can. Wherever I’m needed I’d just like to bring value.’’
To that end, Saladino, who has above average speed, plans to work with someone during the offseason to get faster. He did so years ago and wants to brush up.
“Be a late inning baserunner,’’ Saladino said. “Be that guy who can get that run across the plate and get that run in. That has value. I just want to play the game as long as I can.’’
“He really knows that game; he’s a smart baserunner and that helps but you can always find something to improve on,’’ teammate J.B. Shuck, one of the fastest Sox, said. “He always works to get better.’’
In sum, Ventura says “there’s just something that Sal’s about.’’
“He does a lot of different things that are good for a baseball team. Some of it is how he plays, the actual tools and versatility. The other is how he has integrated himself within the whole baseball team.’’
Tyler Saladino (right) and manager Robin Ventura share a light moment before a game in Miami Saturday. (Photo by Daryl Van Schouwen)
WHITE SOX AT INDIANS
Jose Quintana (9-8, 2.85) vs. Corey Kluber (12-8, 3.21), 6:10, CSN, 890-AM
Wednesday: TBA vs. Carlos Carrasco (8-6, 3.21), 6:10, CSN, 890-AM
Thursday: Carlos Rodon (3-8, 4.32) vs. Danny Salazar (11-4, 3.38), 6:10, 890-AM