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Saladino grateful to play, despite struggles

White Sox infielder happy to be healthy after worrisome back injury
MLB.com @scottmerkin

CHICAGO -- The .193 average, no home runs and eight RBIs would not exactly be considered ideal output for White Sox infielder Tyler Saladino during the 2017 season.

That fact especially holds true considering Saladino, 28, had a breakout '16 campaign with eight home runs, 38 RBIs, 11 stolen bases and a .282 average over 319 plate appearances. But the fact Saladino is finishing this season healthy supersedes any on-field struggles.

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CHICAGO -- The .193 average, no home runs and eight RBIs would not exactly be considered ideal output for White Sox infielder Tyler Saladino during the 2017 season.

That fact especially holds true considering Saladino, 28, had a breakout '16 campaign with eight home runs, 38 RBIs, 11 stolen bases and a .282 average over 319 plate appearances. But the fact Saladino is finishing this season healthy supersedes any on-field struggles.

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"I just count my blessings every day," Saladino said. "I'm thankful to get to do this every day."

Saladino missed from May 27 to July 14 this year due to a jammed nerve in his back suffered when sliding home with the game-winning run on Yolmer Sanchez's walkoff hit against the Padres on May 13. He dealt with a herniated disk L5 on his right side at the end of '16, excruciating pain that hampered him from walking and cost him the final couple of weeks of the season.

An extensive offseason physical therapy program at a place located in the Scripps Ranch community in San Diego helped Saladino come into Spring Training strong. This reactivated injury, though, produced numbness in Saladino's leg and made him wonder if he would even be able to return to baseball.

"I just didn't know, because I never had anything like it," said Saladino, who tried to play through the discomfort for a couple of weeks. "To have that happen midseason, or the early part of the season, it was a pretty big setback.

"Numbness was affecting the things I need to do: swinging, running, things like that. It's always hairy when it's your back. You are trying not to compensate for it or baby it or those kinds of things, but it's easier said than done to just go out and play as if it never happened."

A couple of shots in the inflamed area helped Saladino heal and get him back to the field. He has a .183/.230/.232 split with four RBIs in 25 games since returning from the disabled list, but again, Saladino simply feels glad to be back.

As for worries about this back problem lingering, Saladino pointed out how the disk herniation still shows up on MRIs but has not caused him any further problems. He's confident a back program he worked strenuously at this past offseason and worked just as strenuously in-season before the injury will keep him strong going into '18.

Even without the results, he was able to be a solid clubhouse influence falling in between the veterans and the influx of rookies.

"I would have liked to perform a lot better," Saladino said. "But there were a lot of times where I was able to be there for guys and stuff like that. So, I kind of look at everything, not just performance."

Scott Merkin has covered the White Sox for MLB.com since 2003. Read his blog, Merk's Works, follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin, on Facebook and listen to his podcast.

Chicago White Sox, Tyler Saladino