Notes: Robert unscathed; Lee gets call; Keller progressing

March 25th, 2024

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The White Sox wanted to avoid three days of no game action prior to Thursday’s 2024 Opening Day clash against the Tigers at Guaranteed Rate Field, so they played six innings against their Triple-A Charlotte affiliate on Monday at Camelback Ranch.

That plan almost went astray when Charlotte starter hit with a changeup in the left arm during the first of the veteran’s two scoreless innings. No harm, no foul, though, as Robert headed to first base and stayed in the game without any issue.

“I didn’t cringe because I didn’t see it right away,” said White Sox manager Pedro Grifol. “When it happened, I heard the elbow guard and I’m like, ‘OK, he’s been hit there before.’

“That’s always your worry in intrasquad games. You are playing against your own and you never want to hurt your own guys, so you hold back a little bit. It’s just uncomfortable.”

Michael Soroka threw 45 of his 73 pitches for strikes over five innings in his start for the White Sox, then did a little more work in the bullpen, focusing on fastball usage with Martín Maldonado. But getting in one last game -- with a 10 a.m. first pitch locally -- was the important part, especially with everyone emerging unscathed.

“I’m ready,” said Soroka, who will make his White Sox debut on Saturday. “I’ve never actually broken with a team out of Spring Training. I did it out of the summer camp in 2020. Obviously, [I] would have that year had it not been for COVID. This is special and it’s a good feeling, so I’m very lucky to be here.”

“All the research and data that we got from our sports performance team and strength and conditioning team [said] we needed to crank these guys up and get them full speed for a little bit prior to two days off,” Grifol said. “[Tuesday], we’ll be off, [we'll] get a workout in on Wednesday and crank it up on Thursday.”

Lee gets Opening Day call
Catcher Max Stassi was placed on the 10-day injured list Monday with left hip inflammation, having not played in a game since March 20. Korey Lee was recalled from Triple-A Charlotte to take his place on the Opening Day roster.

Lee worked throughout Spring Training with Maldonado, reuniting after playing together in Houston prior to Lee being traded to the White Sox for Kendall Graveman at the 2023 Trade Deadline.

“When I was in Chicago, he was still reaching out and talking to me,” Lee said of Maldonado, who signed with the White Sox this offseason. “As soon as he got over here, we communicated more and it’s back to work like we never left. I’m excited to have him in my corner, Max in my corner, [catching coach] Drew [Butera], Pedro -- everyone. It’s a really, really good support system.”

“I can’t say enough about what he’s done this spring,” Grifol said of Lee. “He came in focused, hungry and made a ton of improvements everywhere.”

Keller making progress
Keller unsuccessfully campaigned to pitching coach Ethan Katz for another inning after his two scoreless frames.

“Yeah, I feel good,” Keller said. “I can tell [I'm] kind of grinding through some things as far as recovering -- not in a bad way, just the common Spring Training stuff. But all and all, I feel really happy with where my body has been, how it’s been bouncing back with everything.

“Just kind of get in the swing of things, get on my feet a lot more, workload and continuing to build up. Trying to be smart, but I also feel good. That’s the top priority.”

The veteran right-hander will stay in Arizona to continue his build. After going through thoracic outlet surgery in the offseason, Keller could be available by late April.

“That’s the goal,” Keller said. “With the buildup, the next one is three [innings] and then four and the next one is five. Hopefully, that’s in 15 days and [I'll] be at five innings. That’s barring any setbacks or lingering issues or anything like that. I’m just going to be diligent about everything and go about my business and let whatever happens happen.”

Third to first
• Michael Kopech threw his fourth scoreless inning out of the bullpen Monday, but Grifol would not name a set closer.

“I wouldn’t have one anyway, unless you bring back Dennis Eckersley or somebody like that,” Grifol said. “We’re attacking leverage. Somebody takes it on, somebody takes it on.”

• The White Sox made no further roster announcements, meaning their final moves to set the Opening Day roster could potentially come during Wednesday’s workout day.