AS GOOD AS THE PREVIEWS?
Battle with Cease suggests Robert will be a featured player soon
Luis Robert vs. Dylan Cease in a simulated game is about as good as it gets for surveyors of the White Sox’ rebuild and future, which was encapsulated in that particular matchup Monday morning at Guaranteed Rate Field.
Cease, 24, the gifted right-hander acquired from the Cubs with Eloy Jimenez in the trade for Jose Quintana, was left tipping his cap to Robert, 22, the sculpted center fielder from Cuba who’s a favorite on many American League Rookie of the Year betting cards.
There were two tips from Cease, actually — the first simply for how the 6-2, 210-pound Robert looks in a uniform. The second was for Robert’s line drive to center that bounced off the fence.
“I think the biggest thing is just how big he is,” Cease said.
Afterward, Robert and Cease were featured on the Sox’ video calls with reporters. (This is how it’s done in the coronavirus world; reporters have no clubhouse or on-field access, as they normally would during training and the regular season). Cease offered an apt description of the guy he’ll be counting on to run down fly balls in the outfield gaps.
“On Twitter, someone tweeted an Under Armor mannequin [to capture Robert’s essence], and it’s actually pretty accurate,” Cease said. “That’s what he looks like.
“Besides today, I haven’t really gotten an opportunity to watch him a whole lot. He squared me up good on one of them today, and he looks like he’s going to be a very talented player.”
With the fleet Robert in center, Jimenez in left, Yoan Moncada at third, Tim Anderson at shortstop and young pitchers Lucas Giolito, Cease and Michael Kopech on the mound — whenever Kopech returns after dealing with a personal matter — the Sox have a young core worth being optimistic about. Cease and Robert have oodles of talent, but neither has proven anything yet, with Cease pitching to a 5.79 ERA in 73 major-league innings in 2019 and Robert not having played a game, although he tore up minor-league pitching at three levels last season.
Both have plenty in their tool chests and high ceilings. And both know it, with Robert flashing more swagger on the subject than Cease. Maybe it’s because Robert is being touted as the game’s next superstar.
“Yeah, I see or hear all of that stuff,” Robert said through a translator. “I try to not pay attention to that. I know what I can do, and sometimes if you hear all that stuff, you’re going to have more pressure on you, and that might not be good for you. It’s good if people say that, but I just try to not pay too much attention to it.”
The narrative on Robert’s rookie year will be how he adjusts as it goes along. With only 60 games, you wonder if the short season isn’t on his side. He talked openly about the adjustments he’ll have to make as pitchers zero in on how to pitch him, but he remains confident.
“My expectations and goals are always the same,” he said. “Give 100 percent always on the field, help the team as much as I can, and hopefully go to the postseason. And if I’m lucky enough, maybe win the Rookie of the Year. Those are my goals, and if I stay healthy, I feel confident I can do that.”
Luis Robert (left) and Dylan Cease, both key members of the Sox’ young core, faced each other Monday.
DARYL VAN SCHOUWEN firstname.lastname@example.org | @CST_soxvan