Luis Robert returns to Chicago White Sox lineup — so where will he bat this year? ‘There isn’t any place you couldn’t put him.’

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LaMond Pope, Chicago Tribune
·4 min read
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Luis Robert was a late scratch for Monday’s game against the Chicago Cubs as a precautionary measure with a lower abdominal strain.

Robert said the situation popped up about “four or five” days ago. And while he wasn’t sure how it happened, the center fielder was eager to return to the Chicago White Sox lineup Wednesday against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

“I feel good,” Robert said through an interpreter before the game.

He wasted little time showing he was healthy.

In his first at-bat in the second inning, he hit a hard grounder that ate up second baseman Chris Taylor. Robert reached on the error and then attempted to steal. He was thrown out, but it was a good sign he was ready to test all aspects of his game.

Despite going 0-for-3 Wednesday, Robert has been a standout at the plate for the Sox this spring as he prepares for his second big-league season.

He’s slashing .296/.321/.519 with three doubles, one home run and two RBIs in nine games. He has four runs and three stolen bases.

The home run came Saturday against Los Angeles Angels two-way star Shohei Ohtani. That was also the last game Robert played before Wednesday.

“It has been good,” Robert said of his spring. “I feel good. Physically and mentally. I’m preparing myself to have a very good season, and that’s most important.”

Earlier in the month, Sox hitting coach Frank Menechino said Robert used the offseason to work on pitch recognition. Menechino pointed to a March 1 at-bat against the Angels as an example of a positive result.

“He laid off some tough pitches, got the count back to 3-2 and took a fastball inside and barreled it to left-center (for a double),” Menechino said. “That’s really encouraging how he never got off the fastball and was ready to hit every pitch, not kind of guessing and figuring out what the pitcher was going to do to him. He was convicted in his approach.”

Robert said he feels comfortable at the plate.

“I’ve been taking the pitches,” he said. “(If) it’s something that is not in the strike zone, I just let it go. But I think that what makes you feel comfortable at home plate is when you are really recognizing the pitches or you are swinging at the pitches that you can do damage (with).

“I’ve been doing that, and I think that’s the reason I’ve been feeling so comfortable right now.”

Robert finished second in American League Rookie of the Year voting last season after slashing .233/.302/.436 with 11 home runs and 31 RBIs in 56 games. He also won the AL Gold Glove Award for center fielders.

He has been able to transfer what he learned in 2020 to spring training.

“The difference (between this spring and last) has been this year I already have experience of playing in the major leagues, and that experience has helped me to do things in a better way to help me feel more comfortable,” Robert said.

Manager Tony La Russa called Robert a “humble guy who just likes to let his play speak for him.”

Robert batted sixth Wednesday. He also has been slotted first and second this spring.

“Because of his speed, there isn’t any place you couldn’t put him,” La Russa said. “Sometimes if he’s really hot, you give him that extra at-bat in the two spot, or leadoff if Tim (Anderson) takes a day off. Hitting in the middle of the lineup, he’s going to have plenty of chances to drive in runs and score runs.

“The top of the lineup is that extra at-bat, which you look for. Other than that, it’s not a big difference. Every time you come to bat, you want to score, and the deeper the lineup, the better.”

Robert spent a majority of his rookie season hitting seventh (31 games). He also saw time leading off (seven games) and batting fifth (one), sixth (16) and eighth (one).

He’s prepared to hit anywhere.

“It’s not that big of a difference,” he said. “I feel like I can feel comfortable in whatever spot in the lineup.”