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Top prospect Robert wows with grand slam

Outfielder's eighth-inning homer gives Sox the win; Gonzalez roughed up in first inning; Avilan impresses again
Special to MLB.com

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Highly touted Chicago White Sox prospect Luis Robert was grand in his first Spring Training start.

Robert has made cameo late-innings appearances in early White Sox Cactus League games, but on Wednesday he performed on center stage.

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GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Highly touted Chicago White Sox prospect Luis Robert was grand in his first Spring Training start.

Robert has made cameo late-innings appearances in early White Sox Cactus League games, but on Wednesday he performed on center stage.

View Full Game Coverage

Robert, the 20-year-old uber-prospect from Cuba, hit a two-out, eighth-inning grand slam to lift the White Sox to a 14-12 victory over the Cincinnati Reds.

"When I was walking to home plate, I could hear the crowd chanting me," Robert said through an interpreter. "That got me excited. I took a deep breath and calmed down and looked for a good pitch to hit and I hit it."

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Reds right-hander Jackson Stephens threw a first-pitch slider that Robert drove out to left-center.

"I knew with the bases loaded he wouldn't throw me a fastball," Robert said. "I was looking for a slider."

Robert also drew a walk and stole second in the sixth inning.

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Manager Rick Renteria said he wanted Robert to get his "feet wet" in an "A" game.

"He's just an explosive, fluid player, very athletic, has a calm demeanor about him," Renteria said. "His skill set is very high. He's got tremendous hand-eye coordination, great bat speed, good foot speed, he runs the ball down between the lines in the outfield."

MLB Pipeline ranks Robert as the No. 3 prospect in the White Sox system and No. 28 overall. He hit .310 with a .491 on-base percentage in 28 games last year in the Dominican Summer League. He stole 12 bases in 15 attempts.

Video: CIN@CWS: Robert puts White Sox ahead with grand slam

"Having not played in the States quite yet ... we're kind of excited to see him go out there and play on a club in our system and just get him at-bats and experience," Renteria said. "I think he's probably pretty polished, but we've got to see him start facing breaking balls and offspeed, sequences that he's going to be facing during the course of his career.

"We know he can hit a fastball, so we're happy about that, and keep developing. But I think, we hope that he is going to continue to develop into a significantly impact player to make you better."

Robert will likely open this season with Class A Kannapolis or Class A Advanced Winston-Salem.

The countdown is on to when Robert and No. 1 prospect Eloy Jimenez will be in the Chicago outfield.

Forgettable first

White Sox right-hander Miguel Gonzalez failed to make it out of the first inning against the Reds. He allowed five runs on four hits, two walks and a sacrifice fly, while retiring only two batters.

"You always want to go more than two-thirds of an inning," Gonzalez said. "That's pretty embarrassing. But we know it's Spring Training, we have to get a feel for our pitches and do better next time.

"A lot to learn, everything was flat, I wasn't finishing my pitches. I know what I have to work on for the next one. I couldn't hit my spots. Just one of those days, didn't have any feel out there. Something I need to work on in my bullpen and just flush it and go from there. Can't think about it too much, worry about it too much."

Video: CIN@CWS: Gonzalez on his difficult start vs. the Reds

He said his side sessions have been "really good."

"I've had some good depth on my offspeed pitches, just have to take it to the game, that's about it," Gonzalez said. "My arm feels good. I'm healthy, that's the most important thing."

Camp battles

Left-hander Luis Avilan's impressive spring continues. He struck out three Reds and retired all four batters he faced. He has allowed one hit and struck out seven over 3 2/3 scoreless innings in three relief appearances.

Injury update

Jimenez continues to mash balls in batting practice, but has been held out of recent games with a sore left knee.

"We're giving him a little more and more," Renteria said. "He says he feels good. I couldn't tell you exactly what day we plan on trying to get him into a game. I don't know if it's going to be here. We're just happy that he's out there moving around, running the bases now, swinging the bat, which is the most important thing for us. Then we'll determine where we're at it as far as his usage."

Up next

The White Sox will play split-squad games Thursday. In Glendale, White Sox right-hander Michael Kopech will start against the Royals in an exclusive whitesox.com video webcast. Left-hander Danny Duffy will start for Kansas City. In Surprise, veteran James Shields will make his spring debut for the White Sox against Texas. Cole Hamels will start for the Rangers. Both games start at 2:05 p.m. CT.

Alan Eskew is a contributor to MLB.com.

Chicago White Sox, Luis Robert