If everything stays as is, Tyler Saladino has a big opportunity ahead of him this season.
But he said he doesn’t plan to treat the situation different than any other season. Potentially the White Sox starting shortstop in 2016, Saladino, who is attending this week’s minor league mini-camp at Camelback Ranch in Glendale, Ariz., said the only change he’d make would involve his outlook. Though he took to third base last season, Saladino loves playing shortstop.
“Still prepare the same way — try to be consistent in everything you do,” Saladino said on Tuesday. “It’s exciting though, because I love shortstop, getting out there and running around. You get a little stuck at third.”
While neither the White Sox nor Alexei Ramirez have closed the door on their relationship, the veteran shortstop remains unsigned. Ramirez has been the team’s starting shortstop since 2008. But the opportunity could go to Saladino, whom the team considers a major league shortstop, at least from a defensive perspective. General manager Rick Hahn also noted Saladino has improved in his second season at every new level throughout his career. Saladino hit .225/.267/.335 with four homers in 254 plate appearances in 2015, so improvement is needed.
But Saladino’s rookie campaign wasn’t without its moments. Not only did he debut with an opposite-field triple off Jon Lester at Wrigley Field — “that was awesome,” he said — Saladino impressed the White Sox with his glove at third base. Prior to his July promotion, Saladino spent limited time at the hot corner. But that didn’t stop him from excelling, giving the team confidence he could provide the same superior defense at shortstop, his natural position.
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Saladino said he learned much from his first season.
“It was taking in the whole experience, just like any other level,” Saladino said. “It’s just another step to where you’re trying to learn the way the game is played up there, the ins and outs and watching the other guys and seeing what it takes to play up there with those guys.”
One thing Saladino realizes is that he can’t handle this challenge any different than he has previous ones. Though this offseason is dissimilar from last because he’s healthy — most of 2015 was dedicated to rehab from Tommy John surgery — Saladino intends to treat everything else as normal.
“Same preparation, getting ready to go,” Saladino said.