CHICAGO -- Luis Robert’s first unofficial home run for the White Sox at Guaranteed Rate Field had a unique twist to it.
Robert simply might have lost his balance. But then again, it’s intrasquad action and the first explanation adds to the already growing hoopla surrounding the White Sox center fielder. Robert regrouped and tipped his helmet to the visiting dugout as he approached first base, while Rodón threw his glove in the air in almost disbelief.
“It was the first time that something like that happened to me,” said Robert on a Zoom call, through interpreter Billy Russo. “I was sitting on a soft pitch on the outside, and then this pitch was in and I had to react and swing the bat, and I think that was why I fell when I hit the ball.”
“That was pretty impressive,” said Rodón during the same Zoom call. “Honestly, I didn’t think that ball would get out. After that first at-bat, he hit a fastball away and I noticed he just missed that because he hit it sky high, a Major League popup. On that next at-bat, when I went in, I didn’t think he’d get to it. He fell over in the process and still hit it out.”
Saturday’s White Sox home team lineup facing Rodón featured a true Opening Day feel, minus Yoán Moncada at third. Robert has hit second in all three intrasquad games in Moncada’s absence, and while he’s not sure if this will be his spot, Robert feels very comfortable in that position.
This lineup also should regularly have a chance to do real damage over the upcoming 60-game season. Through three intrasquad games, Edwin Encarnación, Tim Anderson, José Abreu and Nomar Mazara have joined Robert in clearing the fences. Adam Engel and Zack Collins also went deep Saturday, with both figuring to break with the team as part of its 30-man roster.
“We're going to score runs, and I think we're going to have guys not feeling like they have to do it all,” said White Sox hitting coach Frank Menechino during a Saturday Zoom call. “One through nine can do damage. One through nine can score runs.”
“Our lineup has pretty good balance,” Robert said. “We have hitters that can hit for power, hitters that can run, hitters that can hit the ball to the gaps.”
Yasmani Grandal, Encarnación, Mazara and Robert are new to the 2020 White Sox lineup, which already featured a defending American League batting champion in Anderson, a defending AL RBI champ in Abreu, a Most Valuable Player candidate in Moncada and a player with 40-home run potential in Eloy Jiménez. Robert very well might become the best of this high-end group.
White Sox bench coach Joe McEwing, who is filling in for manager Rick Renteria, was smiling behind his protective mask when talking about Robert on Friday. That smile became a little broader after Robert’s blast to center.
“He’s a special talent,” said McEwing of Robert. “I said this a couple of years ago: He’s an individual who you pay to go watch play. You can come to the ballpark and understand he has a chance to do something special every day in every asset of his game, whether it’s running, playing defense, throwing, hitting. We are going to have an opportunity to see this for a long period of time.”
“I’m glad he’s on my team,” Rodón said.
Remember, Robert has yet to see one regular-season pitch in the big leagues. So the Hall of Fame bust will have to wait for a while.
But there was Robert during Saturday’s Zoom, wearing a LeBron James jersey and talking about the desire to be the greatest in his sport.
“When you see what other athletes have done, whatever the sport they’re playing, it’s something that you use to motivate yourself and to mirror yourself there,” Robert said. “That’s something every athlete does, and it’s something we have to do just to get that motivation and to follow that example.”