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Shortstop plans falling into place for White Sox

Tim Anderson flashed his skills during Cactus League play, but Jimmy Rollins and Tyler Saladino allow the organization to be patient

Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images

Tim Anderson wasn't going to open the season with the White Sox in Oakland regardless of how well he played. The standard service-time cynicism doesn't even factor into it. Rather, he needs to continue his defensive progress at Charlotte while facing the kind of crafty, breaking-stuff pitchers who might give fits to somebody with Anderson's aggressiveness at the plate.

Anderson received the inevitable news of his minor-league reassignment on Thursday, but it's a positive development on the whole. For one, he represented himself well during Cactus League play, going 4-for-14 with two doubles and a triple, showing his gap-to-gap power. More importantly, he flashed some defensive chops. He did commit one error, but he offset it by pulling off a couple of difficult plays to his right.


In classic Anderson fashion, his batting average was higher than his OBP due to zero walks and one sac fly. A sample size as small as 15 plate appearances will warp numbers like that, but those are the kinds of signifiers that ground the enthusiasm just enough to remain as patient as Anderson isn't.

Besides, Jimmy Rollins and Tyler Saladino are making it easy to wait, and that's the better news.

One shouldn't buy heaviliy into spring numbers, especially ones where Rollins and Matt Davidson are leading the team with four homers. Rollins is especially abusing the privileges of hitting in Arizona, following up a windblown homer on Tuesday to the opposite field -- something he hasn't done as a lefty in the regular season since 2008 -- with a dinger off Kole Calhoun's glove on Thursday:

Nevertheless, given that Rollins flirted with "has-been" territory while Saladino courted "never was," the concern would be palpable and defensible if they both showed up with flaccid bats. The opposite has happened instead, so one can take a little bit of pleasure in seeing both hitters exhibiting competence.

Rollins 39 12 0 0 4 1 7 .324 .333 .649
Saladino 32 7 3 0 3 2 5 .250 .323 .679

It's banal to question whether this will carry into the regular season, because of course it's a question. Rollins in particular has seen shifting eat into his offensive production against right-handed pitching, and he needs to be able to take care of righties in this arrangement, because Saladino looked overwhelmed by them in his audition last year.

The concerns are legit, but the Sox can only resolve March mysteries at this point. Rollins joined the team on a minor league contract, and while everybody expected him to convert it into a $2 million MLB deal, he still had to avoid sprinkler heads and the other odd injuries that short-circuit seasons before they begin. Saladino ... well, the mustache might've been the iffiest thing about his status, as he was considered the bench favorite all the way, but he hasn't allowed anybody to challenge him.

That sets up a scenario the Sox envisioned when they fell into this arrangement: Rollins playing well enough to lead the way at shortstop in 2016, Saladino progressing into a credible utility infielder who can shoulder some of the load, and Anderson shoring up his flaws enough to prepare for an arrival at some point during the second half.