White Sox

Emergency catcher the next role in which Tyler Saladino aims to succeed

Emergency catcher the next role in which Tyler Saladino aims to succeed

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Even if it only were to come under dire circumstances, Tyler Saladino wants to be the best catcher he possibly can be. So the versatile infielder has spent some time at Camelback Ranch this spring working on his receiving skills, including catching prospect Spencer Adams' 20-pitch bullpen session on Thursday. 

Saladino (and Jerry Sands, until he was designated for assignment in June) was the White Sox emergency catcher in 2016 but never got in a game behind the plate, though he caught bullpen sessions in the season thrown by John Danks and Miguel Gonzalez. There are few scenarios in which an emergency catcher has to get in a game, especially in the American League where pinch hitters are used more sparingly, but Saladino wants to make sure he's more than prepared if the alarm sounds for him to get behind the plate. 

"Even if that situation were to come, it's not a typical one," Saladino said. "But we'd still be able to win a ballgame in that situation so I don't want to go back there and just kind of like go through the motions and just catch the ball. I want to get it done."

Saladino played catcher on travel ball teams as a kid, so he's not entirely bereft of experience there. Of course, the velocity, movement and control at the major league level can't be compared to little league, but an early return on his framing skills was positive. 

"They said it wasn't too bad," Saladino said. (Omar) Narvaez said I looked pretty good. We'll keep working on it."

Saladino said he still needs to work on blocking balls in the dirt and hasn't tested out his arm throwing to second base. Manager Rick Renteria left the door open for Saladino to be a little more than emergency catcher -- "It's a valuable piece to have, if he's able to do that," he said Thursday -- but it's more likely the 27-year-old would only catch if something happened to the established catchers on the roster. 

But if that opportunity does arise, Saladino wants to make sure he can actually succeed in it. 

"I want to get used to receiving and being able to get strikes," Saladino said. "Not take a sinker and turn it over and it would have been a strike and it's like ‘Oh, I caught it.' I actually want to try to get strikes."

White Sox catcher Welington Castillo will reportedly be suspended 80 games for use of PED

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USA TODAY

White Sox catcher Welington Castillo will reportedly be suspended 80 games for use of PED

For the first time since new rules came into effect in 2005, the White Sox will reportedly see a major league player suspended for violating baseball’s ban on performance-enhancing drugs.

Welington Castillo, the team’s biggest offseason addition, will be suspended for 80 games, according to a pair of reports.

Manager Rick Renteria said after Wednesday's win over the visiting Baltimore Orioles that he couldn't comment on the reports. Castillo played in Wednesday's game, during which the news broke.

"For me, those at this particular moment are rumors," Renteria said. "MLB is the one that is in charge of that type of stuff. Until they release anything officially I can’t really comment on that."

The veteran catcher, slashing .267/.309/.466 with six home runs and 15 RBIs in 33 games this season, was brought in over the winter to help the rebuilding White Sox in both the short and long term. He had a career year offensively and defensively in 2017, and he was acquired to help develop a young pitching staff featuring big pieces of the future like Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez, and also to swing a solid bat and help this young team learn how to win.

If Castillo proves productive over the course of his two-year deal, the White Sox have a team option that could keep Castillo on the South Side for the 2020 season. That could make him a piece of the puzzle for when the rebuild reaches its apex and the team is ready to start contending for championships. But this news has the potential to change that dramatically.

Zack Collins and Seby Zavala are both having strong offensive seasons at Double-A Birmingham and figure to be the long-term answers behind the plate. But Castillo’s absence from any long-term picture could leave the White Sox without a veteran safety net in the years ahead, depending on how the team decides to react to this news now and in the coming seasons.

Castillo’s absence for the next 80 games could also have an impact on the development of aforementioned pitchers like Giolito and Lopez. Lopez, in particular, has been throwing really well this season, and Giolito has control issues to work through, as he leads the American League in walks. Without the veteran catcher brought in to help those guys transition to the major league level, how will the transition change for those two pitchers?

Omar Narvaez would be the logical choice to take over as the No. 1 catcher. As for who could take Castillo's place on the major league roster, the options are limited. Kevan Smith, who was edged out by Narvaez for the backup-catching job in spring training, is on the disabled list at Triple-A Charlotte, placed there Tuesday. The aforementioned Zavala is also injured at Double-A Birmingham, and it seems far too early to rush Collins to the big leagues. Alfredo Gonzalez is a catcher on the roster at Charlotte. A spot on the 40-man roster would need to be freed up to bring him to Chicago.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: What should be the plan to call up the White Sox prospects?

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: What should be the plan to call up the White Sox prospects?

SportsTalk Live is on location for White Sox Authentic Fan Night. Phil Rogers (MLB Network), Mark Carman (WGN Radio), David DeJesus and Ozzie Guillen join Kap to talk about Manny Machado Mania, Anthony Rizzo’s struggles and the White Sox plans for calling up their best prospects. 

Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below: