He heard he’d make his major league debut as he walked in the door on Friday, but 10 minutes later Tyler Saladino had to check the lineup card “just to make sure.”
About 24 hours after he learned of his promotion from Triple-A Charlotte, Saladino, a seventh-round pick in 2010, joined his new White Sox teammates in the cozy confines of the visiting clubhouse at Wrigley Field.
Saladino who started at third base and hit second for the White Sox in the opener of their three-game series with the Cubs, couldn’t shake the grin from his face as he made his way through the clubhouse on a “surreal day.”
“It’s definitely a different ballpark,” Saladino said. “I haven’t seen anything as big as this, but it’s still kind of surreal. At the same time, game starts in a few hours, so I’m getting ready for that.
“It’s a blessing for sure. Obviously it’s a dream I’ve been chasing my whole life, and it means a lot and I just want to make the most of it. I’m ready to go.”
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Looking for a spark on offense, the White Sox like Saladino’s ability to play each infield position and hope he can hit. Saladino, who had Tommy John surgery last season, hit .280 in 25 spring training at-bats. He experienced shoulder tendonitis earlier this season -- he’s fine now -- but got out to a slow start. But over the past 22 games at Charlotte, Saladino has a .289/.364/.458 slash line with four home runs and 19 RBIs in 99 plate appearances.
“He knows the game, he knows how to work the count,” hitting coach Todd Steverson said. “He showed in spring training he has the ability to hit the ball to all fields, he works on his game, he has a pretty simplistic approach, which is nice when you come up here. He may have a few nerves … Let’s see how it plays out for him.”
The White Sox liked how Saladino hit in 2014 before his elbow injury.
They also like his versatility on the infield. A shortstop by trade (426 of his 533 minor-league games have come there), Saladino has appeared twice at third base this season. But he also played there enough in spring to feel comfortable, he said. Even though the coaching staff likes what they know of Saladino, nothing has been etched in stone.
“We’ll get through today first before we make a definite plan and anchor somebody over there,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said.
On an emotional high, Saladino was still looking for the ground after a wild 24 hours that began with an earlymorning phone call. He didn’t remember to pack everything and made phone calls to family, hung out with roommate Trayce Thompson and then realized he only had a few hours before his flight to Chicago. Saladino arrived at 6:30 p.m.
The instant he walked in the clubhouse Friday, Saladino was greeted by Ventura, who informed him he was in the lineup. Ventura also gave Saladino crucial information about the visiting clubhouse and sent him on his way.
He wasn’t sure he’d be in the lineup but Saladino said he wasn’t overwhelmed by the news, either.
“It’s just like any other day -- you have to be ready no matter what,” Saladino said. “I didn’t know what to expect, so I just treat it like any other day and be ready to play.”