Dream realized: Saladino joins Chicago White Sox
Tyler Saladino said playing major-league baseball is a "dream I've been chasing my whole life."
On Friday, he caught it.
When Scott Carroll was optioned to Class AAA Charlotte following Thursday afternoon's win over the Blue Jays, veteran relief pitcher Matt Albers (fractured finger) was expected to return to the Chicago White Sox from a rehabilitation assignment.
Instead, the Sox called up Saladino, and the 25-year-old infielder was thrown right into the fire against the rival Cubs.
"Getting the call, it was early morning (on Thursday)," Saladino said. "I was still in my apartment back in Charlotte. That was just exciting, hanging out. My roommate's (outfielder) Trayce Thompson, so we were just hanging out.
"I called my dad. He's one of my closest friends so we just sat back and enjoyed it. Then I got to the field and realized my flight was in a couple hours. That's where it all started, scrambling to get everything and get out here."
Saladino said he left quite a few possessions behind. But making it to the big leagues was well worth the rush.
"It's a blessing for sure," said Saladino, a seventh-round draft pick out of Oral Robert University in 2010. "It means a lot and I just want to make the most of it. I'm ready to go."
In 52 games with Charlotte this season, Saladino had a .255/.322/.372 hitting line with 4 home runs, 29 RBI and 25 stolen bases.
He batted second against the Cubs, and it looks like Saladino can buy himself regular playing time if he produces. He was 0-for-3 before giving way to pinch-hitter J.B. Shuck in the eighth inning.
Conor Gillaspie, the White Sox' regular third baseman, is batting .238. A 1-for-27 slump has dropped backup Gordon Beckham's average to .195.
"Your infusing a guy in there who you know who can play over there (third base)," manager Robin Ventura said of Saladino. "Offensively, you see what happens. Knowing him the last few years and what he's done in the minor leagues, even in spring training with us, you are comfortable putting him over there and see what it does to our offense."
Saladino is a natural shortstop. At Charlotte, he played 34 games at short, 2 at third base and 1 each at second and first base.
"I played a lot of third in spring," Saladino said. "A lot, actually, enough to be comfortable with it. I played all three positions, enough to know what I need to do while I'm out there. So I'm ready for it."
Jeff Samardzija pitched for the Cubs from 2008-14, but Friday was the first time he was at Wrigley Field in a visiting uniform.
It was also the first time the White Sox' starting pitcher was in the cramped visiting clubhouse.
"Impressive, to say the least," Samardzija cracked. "An engineering gem. It's cool, though. Unfortunately, it's lost on everyone now, right? Everybody, all the young players, the new owners and this and that, they want new, new, new. So it's always fun when you're here.
"It just takes you back. It's been the same as it's always been. It reminds you of a time when players weren't pampered with spas and saunas and things like that."
Samardzija started for the Sox on Thursday and pitched a complete game shutout against Toronto.
He won't get to start against his old team at his old ballpark.
"It would have been a blast, for sure," Samardzija said of facing the Cubs. "But the good thing about our rotation is it doesn't matter who we throw out there, we have a pretty darn good chance of winning that game. I'm always happy to pitch against the AL clubs because those are big games.
"You can't really pick and choose where you get to pitch. To say one game is more important than the other, the baseball gods will get you for that."