Prospect(s) good

Robert feel­ing more com­fort­able and his play’s re­flect­ing that

Chicago Tribune (Sunday) - - WHITE SOX | CUBS - By LaMond Pope

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Luis Robert laced a liner to the right-cen­ter-field gap in the fifth in­ning of a Cac­tus League game Tues­day against the Giants.

Out of the box, the top prospect in the White Sox or­ga­ni­za­tion had one thing on his mind.

“I know that I have good speed,” Robert said Wed­nes­day through an in­ter­preter, “and ev­ery time I hit the ball into the gap, my mind­set is: ‘Go three. Go three.’ ”

Robert raced around first and turned it up a gear round­ing sec­ond. That’s where he al­most met trou­ble.

Robert be­gan to lose his foot­ing. He stum­bled briefly but re­gained his bal­ance and then slid head­first into third.

Sev­eral of Robert’s tools were on dis­play again Satur­day against the Rangers at Surprise Sta­dium. Robert home­red, sin­gled and stole a base in a 7-5 Sox loss.

The speed that pro­duced 11 triples and 36 stolen bases at three mi­nor­league lev­els in 2019 is just one of his strengths.

“He has tremen­dous speed,” Sox man­ager Rick Ren­te­ria said last week. “The things we’re go­ing to con­tinue to watch are, in baserun­ning, are you do­ing the right things? The speed is there, but are you do­ing the right things while you’re go­ing through that process? And he’s go­ing to end up be­ing a pretty will­ing and ac­tive par­tic­i­pant on the bases.”

The cen­ter fielder also has been ac­tive chas­ing down fly balls.

Robert flexed some mus­cle Thurs­day, rip­ping a dou­ble off the left-field wall in the sec­ond in­ning against the Mariners.

“We have to give him some more at-bats dur­ing the course of the spring,” Ren­te­ria said Satur­day. “He’s a longer-lever­age-type guy. Tim­ing for him is go­ing to be es­sen­tial, but he has pretty good bat-to-ball skill. He does seem to make ad­just­ments from at-bat to at-bat.

“There is a lit­tle bit of swing-and­miss here in the spring, but I’m not re­ally too con­cerned about it. When he puts the bar­rel on the baseball, it pretty much jumps off that bat as well as any­body.”

That was the case Satur­day with the solo home run to left field in the fourth in­ning. Robert showed some en­ergy — and in­ex­pe­ri­ence — ear­lier in the game.

In the sec­ond in­ning he sin­gled to right and stole sec­ond. He later rounded too far off third while the Rangers at­tempted a dou­ble play and was thrown out try­ing to get back to the bag for the fi­nal out of the in­ning.

Robert went 2-for-3, strik­ing out in his fi­nal at-bat. He con­tin­ues to learn as he builds to­ward his big-league de­but.

“I feel com­fort­able,” Robert, 22, said. “I have been feel­ing com­fort­able be­ing able to play in a game and to play in the lineup that we’re go­ing to have.”

First base­man Jose Abreu and left fielder Eloy Jimenez have been among the play­ers keep­ing Robert loose. On Wed­nes­day, Jimenez took out his phone and pre­tended to record a video of Robert dur­ing an in­ter­view with a re­porter. Abreu sat at the locker next to Robert and laughed along the way.

“The thing about be­ing around (Abreu), a guy with a lot of ex­pe­ri­ence, he’s been in this league for a very long time (and) he’s been good,” Robert said. “And with Eloy, a young guy too, he knows what he’s do­ing. He has a lot of tal­ent. He has the ex­pe­ri­ence last year of play­ing in the ma­jors. He has been very good.

“They are try­ing to teach me how to do things the right way.”

Some of Robert’s fa­vorite mo­ments this spring have come away from the field.

“(It’s) the com­mu­ni­ca­tion that we have here, the at­mos­phere that we have here, just spend­ing time and jok­ing around with the guys,” Robert said. “We’ve been work­ing for the same goal and we’ve been help­ing each other. And it’s been good.”

JOSE M. OSORIO/CHICAGO TRI­BUNE

Sox rookie Luis Robert takes off for first after lift­ing a fly ball to the out­field Satur­day against the Reds in Ari­zona.

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