He felt pretty comfortable when the White Sox asked him to play third but Tyler Saladino still wanted more repetitions.
The White Sox rookie spent a considerable amount of time at third base in spring training, taking countless ground balls. But with only five career appearances at the hot corner, including two at Triple-A Charlotte, Saladino knew he didn’t have enough time at game speed to learn the intricacies -- that would only come with more experience.
Given his play so far, it’s scary to think how good of a defender Saladino could become. Even though he has only played 259 innings, Saladino already ranks fifth in the majors among third baseman with seven Defensive Runs Saved, according to fangraphs.com.
[SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]
“It’s not like it was foreign, it just took a little bit of actual live reps, too,” Saladino said. “Having hitters in there, being in the game and getting a feel for the reaction time. At first it was kind of harder to read the swing from third, which you still really can’t, to try toanticipate a little bit and maybe see if whoever’s catching sets up inside. Just the little things that can help you and then you can kind of relax andjust play.”
Saladino showed what a relaxed version of himself is defensively capable of early in Saturday’s loss. In the second inning alone, Saladino turned in three stellar plays. He caught Anthony Rizzo’s foul pop out on the run:
Stopped Jorge Soler’s grounder well beyond the bag by tipping it to himself and throwing to first:
And then laid out to rob Chris Denorfia with a diving grab:
Though the Denorfia catch earned him SportsCenter’s top play of the day, Saladino said Soler’s grounder was the toughest of the bunch. Saladino is a shortstop by trade and knows how the left side is much more reactive than the right side. But he’s still feeling out third base and constantly checks with coach Joe McEwing on positioning, Etc.
“I’ve seen quite a few ground balls in my career but it doesn’t mean they’re all the same,” Saladino said. “When the game comes that’s why it’s important that you’re anticipating or you try to put yourself in the best position. I’m checking with Joe all game to make sure I’m in the right position, get yourself in the best position possible to have a chance to defend. As long as you do that then you stay focused and do your best to make the plays.”