DENVER / PHOENIX (5-14-2018) (UPDATED 5-16-2018) -- Disrespected, unappreciated and sold to away by the American League Central cellar-dwelling Chicago White Sox earlier this season, Palomar College product Tyler Saladino has resurfaced in a starring role with the Milwaukee Brewers, who are in a virtual tie for first place in the National League Central Division.
That's a starring role, as in two home runs to help lead the Brewers to 7-2 and 8-2 victories over the National League West-leading Arizona Diamondbacks on Monday and Wednesday in Phoenix, wins that allowed Milwaukee to win the three-game series two games to none.
The Brewers (26-18, .591) trail the Pittsburgh Pirates (25-17, .595) by 4 percentage points in the N.L. Central race, with the St. Louis Cardinals and Chicago Cubs close behind. The "Brew Crew" are the first National League team to reach 26 wins.
Saladino was back at his familiar shortstop position in the Brewers' starting lineup Sunday, going 2-for-4 with a double, an RBI and a run scored as he helped lead Milwaukee to a 7-3 victory over the Colorado Rockies in Denver.
On Monday, his pinch-hit, two-run, inside-the-park home run in the ninth inning polished off the Diamondbacks back at Chase Field.
And, on Wednesday, Saladino was back in the starting lineup at shortstop and his solo homer over the centerfield fence in the top of the fourth helped boost the Mariners over the Diamondbacks again.
Saladino is best known for his (a) versatility in playing spectacular defense at every position except pitcher and catcher and (b) his speed and fearless aggresiveness both in the field and on the basepaths, also can still swing a mean bat
Batting .375 in his first six games with his new club, Saladino has made an immediate impact for the Brewers, who were alone in first place in the N.L. Central on Monday before losing to the Diamondbacks 2-1 on Tuesday, when Saladino didn't play.
Saladino was a regular starter for the White Sox at one time or another at short, second base and third base in 2015, 2016 and for part of 2017 before a persistent back injury badly curtailed his offensive production and landed him on the bench, then the disabled list and, eventually, gone from Chicago to Milwaukee for cash on April 20 of this year.
Rick Renteria was hired by the White Sox as their new manager when the club fired Robin Ventura on October 3, 2016. Ventura, an all-time great White Sox player from 1989 through 1998 and had been the club's manager since 2012. Ventura had been Saladino's only big-league manager and was known as a "Saladino guy". But Renteria, who ironically had been a frequent visitor to Palomar games when his son played for the Comets, never warmed up to Saladino.
Then Saladino hurt his back. Exit Saladino.
The Brewers initially optioned Saladino to Triple-A Colorado Springs so he could see live pitching again after the White Sox left him rotting on the bench for almost a month at the beginning of the 2018 season. After Saladino's short stay in Colorado Springs, Milwaukee called him up to their big-league club, then inserted him in the starting line-up.
Saladino hit .282 starting regularly for the third straight season for the White Sox in 2016 before the 2017 back injury curtailed his ability to swing the bat properly. The Sox then unloaded him after he got only eight at-bats through April 20 of this year.
Saladino was the 2009 Pacific Coast Athletic Conference Player of the Year and a community college All-American starring at shortstop for coach Buck Taylor at Palomar. He was drafted in the seventh round by the White Sox after his Summit League Player of the Year junior season at Division I Oral Roberts University and was an instant success when he landed in the starting lineup for the White Sox after being called up to the Major Leagues in 2015.
Saladino is one of four former Comets currently playing in the Major Leagues. Saladino's ex-Palomar teammate, submarine relief pitcher Tim Hill, made his Major League debut for the Kansas City Royals on opening day and has been consistently reliable being brought in with runners on base to get the Royals out of innings, particularly when their inconsistent starters have been unable to get out of innings early.
After a battle with cancer during his second minor league season, Hill made the jump from the Royals' Double-A Northwest Arkansas farm club in 2017 to the big-league team to pitch in the 2018 season opener. He has appeared in 17 games with a 3.46 earned run average, but it you throw out a lone unsuccesful appearance when the allowed 5 runs (3 earned) in 2 innings vs. the White Sox on April 27, he has an ERA of 1.64.
Among the other former Comets in The Show, Nick Vincent continues his success out of the bullpen for the Seattle Mariners in his seventh Major League season and has an ERA of 0.00 for his most recent eight appearances, from April 28 to the present. Vincent has a career Major League ERA of 3.06, compiling a 17-13 win-loss record and striking out 293 batters while walking only 71.
James Hoyt is in his second season coming out of the bullpen for the defending World Series champion Houston Astros.