No matter how much reporters wanted him to, Tyler Saladino just refused to be happy about hitting his first big league home run.
The rookie, who in a short amount of time in the majors has shown he has an extreme team-first attitude, homered off Royals pitcher Danny Duffy in the ninth inning of what turned out to be a 4-1 loss Sunday at U.S. Cellular Field. But the fact that his first big league blast came in a defeat washed almost all of the enjoyment away from the moment for the 25-year-old.
“The home run’s nice, especially the first one, but at the end of the day, if we don’t win, that’s all that matters. The home run is just a moment,” Saladino said. “The win, at the end of the day, we didn’t get it, so come back Tuesday.
“It’s a huge accomplishment to trot around those bases at a big league field, a major league home run. But I can’t help it. It doesn’t do it (for me). If we won, it would’ve been the greatest thing to happen. But we didn’t. I don’t know, it just doesn’t quite do it.”
[MORE WHITE SOX: Chris Sale not at his best as White Sox fall to AL's best]
Man, it takes a lot to get this kid excited.
In all seriousness, Saladino’s team-first mentality is a perfectly admirable one. The same can be said for his play on the field, which has impressed in just seven games. Before Sunday’s series finale with the Royals, manager Robin Ventura praised how Saladino “always seems to be dirty.” And anyone who’s paid attention knows Saladino already boasts some pretty strong defensive chops, as he’s made some terrific plays at the hot corner.
“It's always special when a guy hits his first home run or first hit,” Ventura said. “He just continues to play. As far as that stuff, he's going to check that off the list. But he's just playing to win games. He's not into the meaning of all that. He thinks it's cool and everything, but he's trying as hard as he can to help us win games. He's just a good player.”
Being “just a good player” was enough to make Saladino the White Sox everyday third baseman, a role confirmed by Ventura ahead of Sunday’s game. Saladino was called up and has started every game since last weekend’s Interleague series against the Cubs, but his opportunity to be an everyday major league player became a little more official Sunday, when the White Sox designated veteran third baseman Conor Gillaspie for assignment.
[MORE WHITE SOX: White Sox designate Conor Gillaspie, return Matt Albers to 'pen]
Saladino has earned it so far. He’s now 8-for-26 in seven games.
“You don’t know what to expect coming up here,” Saladino said. “Preparation is everything for me, just working hard, treating every day like it’s as important as any other. That’s just all I try to do, so being able to have some results out of all that, it’s gratifying. But I’m still trying to treat each day as important as the other and be ready for Tuesday.”
Sunday, Saladino’s homer got the attention, but it was clear he didn’t want to revel in that. Talk of his defense, on the other hand, did elicit a minimal amount of pride.
“I’ve put in so many hours with (White Sox coach Joe McEwing) and all the guys, everybody from the start of it, guys from instructional league in the very beginning to all the ground balls we’ve taken every year since then to get to this point,” Saladino said. “I take a lot of pride in that stuff and taking care of the ball defensively.”
[SHOP WHITE SOX: Get your White Sox gear right here]
That’s about as much as a boast you’ll hear from Saladino. He said he did get the ball from his first homer, and the game’s lineup card was on his chair after the game. So there will be some sort of memory from this day.
But perhaps a more fitting milestone for Saladino awaits: first major league home run in a win.
If he keeps doing what he’s done through seven big league games, that one shouldn’t be too far off.