White Sox infielder Tyler Saladino fancied himself as a catcher as a young player, but when a comfortable lead allowed for defensive changes while playing for his father, Saladino found himself moving from one position to the next.
His versatility has become his calling card, and Saladino has proved to be a reliable defender wherever he plays. But after second baseman Brett Lawrie was lost to a hamstring injury July 22, Saladino not only settled into one position, he became an every-day player.
Neither change has changed his approach.
“It’s the same grind with the guys every day,” Saladino said.
Saladino has started 39 of the last 45 games, including 32 starts at second. He also has made 27 starts at shortstop this season and 10 at third base.
Manager Robin Ventura said that the likelihood of Lawrie returning this season grows more unlikely by the day. Lawrie continues to work out in Arizona while dealing with an injury he and team doctors haven’t been able to pinpoint.
What started as a hamstring injury has become an issue with Lawrie’s hip and knee. Initially, the injury wasn’t expected to keep him out of the lineup long.
“[Returning] has become a long shot at this point just because he’s been out so long and he hasn’t been playing,” Ventura said. “At this point, he would have to find some way to get some reps to be able to get back in there and get the timing of everything again.”
Perhaps the regular playing time has helped Saladino improve at the plate. He went 3-for-4 with a two-run single in the Sox’ 7-2 victory Friday. He entered Saturday hitting .329 in his last 21 games with six doubles, two home runs and 14 RBI.
“[Saladino] has been able to get some regular time and some regular time at one position, as well,” Ventura said. “I think he’s taken advantage of it.”
For someone who prides himself on playing a variety of positions, Saladino seemingly has found a comfort level at second base. But he still approaches his job with the same attitude he did when he was a fill-in for shortstop Tim Anderson and third baseman Todd Frazier. And he follows a mantra he picked up in the minor leagues, before he became a big-leaguer last season.
“You’ve got to stay on top of everything and just be ready for what comes at you,” Saladino said.
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