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Robert, White Sox seek health, longer postseason run

March 14, 2022 GMT

GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) — Like every other team dealing with a shorter spring training, the Chicago White Sox are trying to prepare players for the season while keeping a close eye on their conditioning.

But it certainly sounds like center fielder Luis Robert is ready to go.

“They were running at a nice pace, but not overextending,” manager Tony La Russa said Sunday as more players reported to camp at Camelback Ranch. “The coaches were watching Robert and told him, ‘You’re supposed to go kinda easy.’ He said, ‘That was easy.’ He’s beautiful.”

The 24-year-old Robert followed a strong rookie season in 2020 — 11 homers in 56 games and a Gold Glove in center field — with an even better season last year despite missing three months with a torn hip flexor.

After he returned from his injury, Robert hit .350 with 12 homers and 35 RBIs in his last 43 games of the regular season. Then he batted .467 (7 for 15) during the team’s division series loss to the Houston Astros.

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Even the lockout didn’t slow him down.

“I was already ready for spring training,” Robert said through an interpreter. “Just waiting and trying to keep ready was challenging, but it’s good to be back.

“I feel good. I’m healthy.”

Chicago won the AL Central title last year despite playing without Robert and fellow outfielder Eloy Jiménez for large chunks of the season. Jiménez ruptured his left pectoral tendon last March. He finished with 10 homers and 37 RBIs in 55 games.

“You don’t really have control over injuries, these things happen,” Robert said.

After two playoff appearances — the first time the White Sox have made the postseason in consecutive seasons — the franchise is still looking for its first postseason series win since the 2005 World Series.

“I think we feel even more excited than last year,” Robert said. “Our goal for this year is very clear, just to win and we will have to work hard.”

La Russa said Sunday one of the most difficult parts of the 99-day lockout was not having communication with his players.

“I talked to other managers and coaches,” La Russa said. “You feel stressed because you should be able to ask them, ‘Where are you sore?’ when you get started. But it’s OK because we’re all facing the same thing.

“I believe them (about health) but you gotta see it out here. Every coach is evaluating, we got an expectation of what their conditioning was based on what they were saying. There’s a couple guys we’re going to slow-play based on what we’ve seen.”

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