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Moncada guiding Robert during mini-camp

MLB.com @JesseSanchezMLB

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Luis Robert's training begins once he steps into Yoan Moncada's rental car each morning.

The 10-minute drive from the nearby hotel to Camelback Ranch, home of the White Sox Spring Training facility and the site of this week's hitters mini-camp, is short but helpful. Robert peppers Moncada with questions about baseball and life in the United States after living in Cuba. The second baseman does his best to answer them while he maneuvers a white sedan to the complex.

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Luis Robert's training begins once he steps into Yoan Moncada's rental car each morning.

The 10-minute drive from the nearby hotel to Camelback Ranch, home of the White Sox Spring Training facility and the site of this week's hitters mini-camp, is short but helpful. Robert peppers Moncada with questions about baseball and life in the United States after living in Cuba. The second baseman does his best to answer them while he maneuvers a white sedan to the complex.

"Growing up, I don't think we ever imagined we would be here," said Robert, 20, who first met Moncada as a young teen on the baseball fields in Cuba. "It's really good to have someone from Cuba to be a guide and speed up the adjustment."

Together, Moncada and Robert represent part of the future for the franchise. Separately, the young Cubans are working to solidify their place in the organization. Robert, who defected from Cuba in late 2016 and signed with the White Sox last May for a $26 million bonus, is entering his first full Minor League season in the United States. Moncada, who signed a $31.5 million deal with the Red Sox out of Cuba in 2015, will enter his first full big league season as the White Sox starting second baseman.

Video: Rick Hahn discusses importance of White Sox mini-camp

Robert and Moncada were teammates on Cuba's U-18 team in 2013.

Robert, who is ranked as the No. 23 prospect in baseball by MLB Pipeline, admits it will take time to adjust to life in the United States. He doesn't speak English and understands there are cultural differences he will face. That's where Moncada will step in to help Robert, just like White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu, who is also from Cuba, helped him. Robert said an uncle from Cuba who lives in California will also help in the transition to the United States.

However, some things will remain the same. Robert's days in the Dominican Republic, where he lives, are spent working out, and he hopes to create a similar routine in the United States. He's looking forward to learning new training techniques.

Video: Luis Robert homers in his first pro at-bat in the DSL

Robert's contract gives him the type of financial freedom he could have never imagined, but he said he's still the same homebody he was before he signed the multimillion dollar deal. And yes, Robert likes video games and having fun with social media, like other people his age, but he said he left everything behind in Cuba to become a Major League player, so that's what he is focusing on.

"My life has changed in many ways, but maybe the biggest change since I signed is that I don't worry about what's next," Robert said in Spanish. "My life is tranquil. I can just concentrate on the game and my family, and not where I am going to sign."

The most significant change in Robert's life has been a personal one. His parents and sisters recently joined him in Santo Domingo.

"It's important to keep in mind this year that so much of what is going to happen with him from a developmental standpoint is going to happen off the field," White Sox general manager Rick Hahn said. "It's a thrill watching him in BP and make these fields look small, and it's going to be fun to watch him in Spring Training, and ultimately, whatever affiliate he gets assigned to for the 2018 season. But no matter how he performs, a lot of what he's going to get used to is life in the States, different culture and a different type of baseball, different expectations, and different schedule and different diets."

Video: Renteria's impressions of Robert and Jimenez

Since joining the White Sox, Robert has played in the Dominican Summer League and participated in the White Sox instructional league at the club's Dominican Academy. He will be in big league camp for Spring Training next month. There's a chance he will be assigned to one of the club's Class A affiliates at Kannapolis or Winston-Salem (Advanced) for the regular season.

"I'd like to be in the big leagues like everyone else, but I don't know the plan for me right now," Robert said. "I'm just going to focus on doing my work and getting better."

As for Moncada, he finished the 2017 season with a .231 batting average, eight home runs, 22 RBIs, 31 runs scored and three stolen bases. He hit .211 in 20 plate appearances with the Red Sox in 2016, and he later was acquired by Chicago from Boston as part of the package for pitcher Chris Sale during the offseason.

Like many young players with his experience level, Moncada is a work in progress.

Video: Top Prospects: Luis Robert, OF, White Sox

"[Yoan] is extremely young with half of a year of big league play under his belt," Hahn said. "I think he is going to be a lot more comfortable and know more about how the pitchers are trying to get him out, and how he needs to adjust, and he knows he's going to be out there in the lineup every day."

The immediate future for Moncada and Robert includes a trip to a Cuban restaurant near the hotel for a taste of the island. It's another chance for them to catch up on the past and dream about the future.

"Yoan is still very young and still establishing himself as a big leaguer," Hahn said. "The fact that he is taking such care and consideration for one of his younger teammates going through something he went through himself speaks highly about his character."

Jesse Sanchez, who has been writing for MLB.com since 2001, is a national reporter based in Phoenix. Follow him on Twitter @JesseSanchezMLB and Facebook.

Chicago White Sox, Yoan Moncada