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Chicago White Sox general manager Rick Hahn noticed how Luis Robert had been able to make adjustments over the course of a game.
“We saw a more consistent approach and one that was serving him well,” Hahn said Monday.
Now the Sox will be without the dynamic center fielder for an extended time after he suffered a complete tear of his right hip flexor.
The Sox said Robert will undergo further consultation and examination in the coming days to determine if surgery or rest and rehabilitation is needed to recover from the Grade 3 strain.
Regardless, Robert will not participate in baseball activities for 12 to 16 weeks.
“It’s obviously very difficult and not at all how any team draws things up,” Hahn said. “You certainly try to create as many contingencies and protections as you can. There are certain star-caliber players that are more difficult to replace than others.”
The Sox haven’t ruled Robert out for the season, and Hahn said: “It all depends on the healing timeframe, and unfortunately none of us are smart enough to know exactly how his body will respond to whatever is next. We’ll just have to wait and see.
“It being early May, 12 weeks from now is early August, which is the earliest that he would conceivably begin baseball activities. And if we’re fortunate that that’s the timeline, then there certainly is the opportunity for him to return this year, even if he doesn’t hit the immediate, earliest part of that timeline. We’re really just going to have to wait and see. It’s speculative at this point.”
Robert suffered the injury in the first inning Sunday against the Cleveland Indians when he raced to first for an infield hit. He fell after crossing the bag and had to be helped off the field.
It’s another major loss for the Sox, who already are without starting left fielder Eloy Jiménez.
“It’s disappointing, there’s no sugarcoating that,” Hahn said. “It’s a blow. In some ways we’ve been here. We were here four, five weeks ago when Eloy went down, and that clubhouse is strong and cohesive and motivated and focused. And I suspect, as disappointed as they’re all going to be to hear the news as I was, that in due course the focus is going to return to winning ballgames.”
Robert, 23, makes a big impact offensively and defensively. He is slashing .316/.359/.463 with nine doubles, one triple, one home run and eight RBIs in 25 games. He finished second in American League Rookie of the Year voting in 2020 and won the AL Gold Glove Award for center fielders.
The Sox are now without two-thirds of their projected starting outfield. Jiménez has been out since the final week of spring training with a ruptured left pectoral tendon. His recovery time was five to six months.
“I do think the performances of Yermín (Mercedes) and Andrew (Vaughn) have helped mitigate the urgency to replace the vacancy created by Eloy,” Hahn said. “The nature of how we’re all wired here, there’s always this inclination to try to fix it, to solve the problem, to find the right answer outside if you don’t feel like you have it internally. So that’s going to continue to gnaw at all of us who are charged with trying to put the best roster we possibly can out there.
“Initially, we’re going to start with some of the internal solutions or internal options we have here as we continue to evaluate what else potentially could be available to us. We’re still early in the season. It’s not exactly the time where you see potentially impactful players changing teams, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t going to at least explore what is potentially out there and evaluate it.”
Those internal options include Leury García and Billy Hamilton.
Hahn said there’s also a balance when thinking of the organization’s long-term vision.
“We certainly went into this season with the intent to be aggressive and we haven’t moved off that, in terms of our focus and expectations,” he said. “That said, we are in the midst, or the opening I would say, of what we hope will be an extended window.
“You certainly don’t want to do anything shortsighted to short-circuit that long term. It’s going to be a balancing act, and first you have to figure out what the options are before you figure out if the juice is worth the squeeze, so to speak.”
Outfielder Adam Engel is also on the injured list with a strained right hamstring, and Hahn said Engel had a setback in his rehabilitation that “put us back to square one.”
“The good news is that at this point he is trending in the right direction and continuing to progress,” Hahn said. “However we are currently approximately three weeks away from Adam to begin a rehabilitation assignment.”
Despite all the injuries, expectations remain high for the Sox (15-12), who are in second place in the AL Central.
“The challenges have perhaps become greater, but the goals remain the same,” Hahn said. “And we look forward as a group — and by that I mean those in the clubhouse and those in the front office — to trying to find the best way to navigate through this.”
Reynaldo López on IL; Sox reach vaccination threshold
Hahn said pitcher Reynaldo López, who is at Triple-A Charlotte, will begin the minor-league season on the injured list.
“It’s a temporary placement and it’s actually not really baseball-related,” Hahn said. “He had surgery (Sunday) on both of his corneas to correct a vision issue he was having that was presenting him with blurred vision. He’s expected to make a full recovery and return to the active roster at some point in the next two to three weeks.”
Hahn also said the Sox have surpassed the 85% threshold for vaccination.
“Come May 15, which will be after the two weeks following the second shot for several of the individuals, we will officially have over 85% of our Tier 1 players and staff fully vaccinated,” he said.