White Sox

Inside the play that has White Sox fans salivating over a fully healthy Luis Robert

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AP

Inside the play that has White Sox fans salivating over a fully healthy Luis Robert

It was a play that lasted only 10 seconds during a recent game in the Arizona Fall League, but those 10 seconds gave the White Sox another glimpse into what Luis Robert can do on a baseball field.

And it’s electric.

It all started with Robert hitting a routine ground ball to the left side of the infield. The third baseman gobbled up the baseball and took his time throwing to first. Bad idea. Robert was racing down the line at warp speed and beat it out.

Moments later, Robert stole second base on a nifty head-first slide despite a perfect throw by the catcher. Robert made it look effortless.

Then came the moment that should have White Sox fans salivating.

A ball was caught in deep left-center field, which could easily get Robert to third, but he wanted more.

“I saw that the fly ball was hit kind of deep,” Robert explained through a translator, teammate Laz Rivera. “I was just thinking about scoring straight from second, but coach (Dave) Anderson stopped me at third. As the shortstop was walking in, I felt like he got overconfident and I took advantage of it.”

Robert dashed for home. The throw arrived. Robert slid to his right, reached out his left hand to touch home plate. He safely avoided the tag, scoring from second base on a sacrifice fly.

I asked him: Can you do this routinely without stopping at third?

“It depends on how deep the fly ball is and how good the center fielder hits the cutoff man,”  Robert answered.

How many times have you done it?

“I’ve never done it,” he said. “But I’m confident I can do it.”

Even though he’s been on everyone’s radar since the White Sox signed him as a 21-year-old Cuban phenom in 2017, the Arizona Fall League felt like Robert's official coming out party. Thumb injuries limited him to only 45 games in 2018 with Class A Kannapolis and Class A Winston-Salem. Fully healthy now, Robert proved to be one of the best players in the AFL, facing some of the best pitching prospects in the minor leagues.

He finished with a slash line of .324/.367/.432 with two home runs, 10 RBIs and five stolen bases in 18 games. Thanks to a 14-game hitting streak, he also won an AFL Player of the Week Award.

Since the White Sox signed the 6-foot-3 outfielder, he’s had trouble staying healthy with two thumb injuries, a knee injury and a few aches and pains along the way. It’s left some to question whether Robert will be able to stay healthy.

He says not to worry. There’s been a reason for his ailments.

“I felt like I was getting injured last year because I had a year and a half without playing and now I feel like I’m ready to go,” said Robert, who was unable to play games after he defected from Cuba in 2016 until he joined the Dominican Summer League White Sox toward the end of the 2017 season.

“Every injury is a learning experience,” he said. “Everything I’m doing right now is helping my body become better."

Robert mentioned two big plans for him during the offseason. The first is working to improve his swing.

“I should be practicing hitting curveballs more often, but I feel like I’m in a good place right now to hit them. I’m working on more counts, I’m seeing more pitches and waiting for my pitch,” Robert said.

He’s also moving to Tampa, Florida, where he wants to get a house for him and his family, who are currently living in the Dominican Republic.

“So we can be together,” Robert said.

It’s not a coincidence that Robert has chosen to live in Tampa since that’s also the winter home for fellow Cuban Yoan Moncada, who's been a mentor to Robert since the White Sox signed him. Moncada is in Glendale this month getting in some extra training at Camelback Ranch in preparation for next season.

“He’s always taking care of me,” Robert said of Moncada. “He’s always giving me advice on what I should or shouldn’t be doing on the baseball field and off the baseball field.”

After watching Robert on the baseball field in the Fall League, spring training cannot come soon enough.

White Sox Talk Podcast: Carlos Rodon says it's time to s**t or get off the pot

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USA TODAY

White Sox Talk Podcast: Carlos Rodon says it's time to s**t or get off the pot

In a candid interview with Chuck Garfien, White Sox pitcher Carlos Rodon talks about the rebuild, his struggles last season, Manny Machado and more.

He explains his troubles from last September (04:04), if he thinks he deserves to be the White Sox Opening Day starter (07:34), why it's time for the White Sox to start winning (08:20), if the White Sox did everything they could to sign Manny Machado (10:32) and more.

Listen to the entire podcast here or in the embedded player below.

White Sox Talk Podcast

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Carlos Rodon is ready for White Sox to start winning: 'There's a point in time where it's s**t or get off the pot'

Carlos Rodon is ready for White Sox to start winning: 'There's a point in time where it's s**t or get off the pot'

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Even though the White Sox failed in their attempt to sign Manny Machado, spring training goes on.

There’s a season to be played. Machado certainly would have helped in 2019, but as someone who was here before the rebuild began and hopes to play a big role with the White Sox when their contending window opens, Carlos Rodon says it’s time.

It’s time for the White Sox to start winning.

“There’s a point in time where it’s s**t or get off the pot, man. I mean, there’s a point where you’ve got to make a turn,” Rodon said in an interview on the White Sox Talk Podcast. “I’ve been on teams like this before, not in the big leagues, but during my younger baseball career, where they’re OK or weren’t good at all, and there’s a point where the team turned and we became great or just winners. We just came together and it just happened. It’s got to happen soon. We’ve got to start picking up some ground. This is about winning, and I get the whole ‘there’s a process to winning,' and I agree a hundred percent with Rick (Hahn), but it’s time.”

Rodon isn’t promising an AL Central crown in 2019, but if White Sox fans are starting to feel a little itchy after 195 losses in the first two seasons of the rebuild, you’re not alone. Rodon feels your impatience.

The impressive prospects that Hahn and the front office have signed or acquired are starting to find their way to the majors, but is there enough talent in the clubhouse right now to answer Rodon’s hope of turning the corner in 2019?

“These guys are here for a reason, so I believe in every guy beside me in this locker room. I think we have the ability. I’ve always liked being the underdog. I’ve always liked being the guy that has something to prove. It just gives you a little fire,” Rodon said.

For the White Sox to take that next step, several players must start reaching their potential. Rodon includes himself in this category.

Coming back from shoulder surgery last season, Rodon returned in mid-summer and showed flashes of that ace the White Sox envisioned he’d become when they picked him third overall in the 2014 draft.

He combined to go 5-0 with a 1.84 ERA in July and August. What happened in September?

“For a lack of a better term, I s**t my pants. It seems like it always happens. Right in the middle of August and July, I get on a good run and then I s**t my pants,” said Rodon, who went 0-5 with a 9.22 ERA in the final month of the season.

What went wrong?

“I don’t know. I try to do too much. I have stuff that I don’t have to throw that 96 (mph) up there all the time. Just kind of let it work. Something I was working on today just kind of smoothing it out. I try to do more than I should when what I have is already good enough,” said Rodon, who turned 26 in December. “It’s just being young, I guess you could say. Still learning how to pitch.”

Entering his fifth season in the majors and holding the most seniority in the White Sox starting rotation, Rodon could be in line to start for the White Sox on Opening Day. But ask him if he thinks he’ll get the ball when they begin the season March 28 in Kansas City, he gives a very honest answer.

“It would mean a lot, but I feel like I haven’t really deserved it. I haven’t really earned it,” Rodon explained. “But if I am the Opening Day starter, I’ll take it with pride and go out there and compete. I’m not going to lie to you, I don’t feel like I’ve truly earned a top-of-the-rotation kind of guy, but that’s because we have a young rotation and I guess you could say (I have) most of the experience except for Ivan (Nova).”

While many White Sox fans would have loved to have seen Machado in a White Sox uniform on Opening Day, Rodon doesn’t fault the front office in their attempt to sign the All-Star free agent.

“Guys that make it to free agency have been in the big leagues for six years and they’ve earned the right to decide where they want to go. Now granted, I commend Rick, Jerry (Reinsdorf) and Kenny (Williams) and all of the guys in the front office that put in all of the hard work to try to make a run at Machado. They should be able to go home at night and sleep well because they did everything they could. It’s not up to us. The player still has a decision. He has a decision to make and he decided to go a different route and we did everything we could, so there’s nothing you can do about it. Something you move on from and the season continues,” Rodon said.

Do you believe the White Sox did everything they could to get Machado?

“I believe we did. I think we did, so they say. And I’m going to go with that. I trust what they say.”

And trust Rodon when he says it’s time for the White Sox to turn things around. There’s a clubhouse filled with players who feel the same way.

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