CHICAGO -- Luis Robert had a 2021 goal of 30 home runs and 30 stolen bases for 2021, a statistical target no White Sox player has ever achieved.
That goal was derailed by a right hip flexor tear suffered on May 2. But a player possessing as much talent and as much confidence as the White Sox center fielder simply can adjust that same goal to 2022 and beyond.
“I’m not looking to be the first one. But I definitely want to do it,” said Robert through interpreter Billy Russo. “If it happens that I’m the first one, it will be great.
“It’s not something that’s on my mind, like I’m going to be the first White Sox 30-30. No. I just want to be a 30-30.”
Robert returned to action on Aug. 9 at Target Field and has been one of the most dominant hitters in the game since that point. Over 26 games entering Sunday’s series finale against the Red Sox, Robert was slashing .368/.395/.605 with six home runs, nine doubles, 21 runs scored and 18 RBIs. Only the Cubs' Frank Schwindel (.374) has a higher average in the Majors since Aug. 9.
There’s just one stolen base in one attempt on Robert’s ledger during that time. But with Robert not quite at 100 percent by his own admission, the White Sox don’t want to push him in that area. That caution now doesn’t mean Robert won’t return to stealing bases in the future.
“Yes, of course. That’s one of the aspects of the game I enjoy the most,” Robert said. “Every time [I'm] on base, I try to go. I don’t like to spend too much time on the base or waste my time on the base. Every time I have a chance to run, I’ll do it.”
Some pundits pointed to Robert as an American League Most Valuable Player candidate at the end of August in 2020, his rookie season. A rough September left Robert second in the AL Rookie of the Year voting, although he bounced back in the AL Wild Card Series against Oakland, having blasted a 487-foot home run.
There’s been a decided improvement in terms of Robert’s selectivity at the plate, leading to his .344 average overall. It’s a pretty solid adjustment considering he wasn’t sure of a return after that May injury.
“When they started talking about surgery and stuff, I didn’t know. I was really concerned. It was really scary,” Robert said. “I didn’t have the certainty that I’m going to come back.
“But after I started walking and feeling better, I was like, ‘OK, yes. I’m going to be able to come back this year.’ I put all my effort in that.”
Eloy Jiménez, Robert’s friend and teammate who dealt with his own injury issue this year, has pointed to Robert as the next Mike Trout. But Robert only wants to be the best version of himself.
“Every player is different. Every player has good things or bad things. Good skills and not as good skills,” Robert added. “That comparison doesn’t give me any extra motivation. … I don’t really pay attention to that.
“Honestly Mike Trout is Mike Trout. I am who I am. I just go out there and try to be the best player I can be.”
Anderson close to a return
Barring anything unforeseen, shortstop Tim Anderson will return to action Tuesday night against the Angels. Anderson has been out of action since Aug. 28 with a left hamstring strain, but he was running the bases and testing his recovery pregame on Sunday.
The White Sox will be very careful when Anderson returns, breaking him in “little by little,” per manager Tony La Russa.
“Going to be even more careful with Tim because of his legs, hamstrings, for one thing,” La Russa said. “It will probably resemble something like Spring Training.”
They said it
“Definitely a milestone I'm sure a lot of people would want to have. Not too many guys can say they played 1,000 games in the big leagues. I was excited for it, but I don't think too much into it.” -- catcher Yasmani Grandal, on his career milestone achieved Saturday
“It’s just been taking every day serious rather than taking a day I know I have the ball serious. It’s a little bit [of a] different mindset. I’m still adjusting to it, but I’ve learned a lot from it this year.” -- Michael Kopech, on his ongoing learning process of relief vs. starting