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Sox lose Robert for months to complete hip flexor tear

/ by Vinnie Duber
Presented By Nationwide Insurance Agent Jeff Vukovich
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The White Sox injury luck has been downgraded from bad to horrendous.

Already without slugging left fielder Eloy Jiménez for months, the team announced Monday that five-tool center fielder Luis Robert suffered a complete tear of his right hip flexor and will be unable to resume baseball activities for at least 12 to 16 weeks. The next steps have yet to be determined, but surgery is possible. It's possible he could miss the entire season, though it's too early to tell, according to general manager Rick Hahn.

It’s a doomsday scenario for the White Sox, who must now figure out a way to meet their World Series expectations without two extremely important pieces of their lineup.

Jiménez, who ruptured his pectoral tendon at the end of spring training, was set for a five-to-six month recovery, and it’s possible he could miss the entirety of the campaign. Robert now will miss at least three months and could also be sidelined for the duration of the 2021 season. While the White Sox were confident they could weather Jiménez’s absence thanks to a deep lineup, it’s that much greater a challenge to attempt to plug two gaping holes, with a lot of pressure falling on the rest of the team’s core to produce up at a championship level.

The 2021 season was supposed to be another breakout of sorts for Robert, who wowed in his first month in the majors last summer before slumping deeply in the second half of the shortened campaign. Watching him during the spring, new manager Tony La Russa called Robert a “six-tool player” and compared him to Mike Trout. The flashes of jaw-dropping ability Robert flashed as a rookie were expected to develop into consistent excellence in 2021, and indeed he looked capable of just that prior to his injury, hot at the plate with a batting average north of .300 and making stellar plays in the outfield in recent days to remind he won a Gold Glove as a rookie.

 

Now that will all have to wait.

The baseball gods have not smiled upon the White Sox during the last few years, and it’s been fair to wonder whether significant injuries — first to Michael Kopech and Carlos Rodón, now to Jiménez and Robert — have impacted the team’s contention window. This season was supposed to see that window fully open for the first time since the team started its rebuilding project, but it will be difficult for the White Sox to be what they looked to be in the preseason, one of the AL’s top teams, without two of their best players, perhaps wasting a year of that window and of the long-term contracts both players signed prior to their respective major league debuts.

As for where the White Sox go to keep their championship hopes afloat this season, there will be much expected from healthy hitters such as José Abreu, Yoán Moncada, Tim Anderson, Yasmani Grandal and Adam Eaton. In the immediate, La Russa will likely lean on some of the same reserves he has to help plug the hole in left when it comes to filling the new one in center. That could mean more appearances by Leury García and Billy Hamilton. Andrew Vaughn, whose playing time in left field has been a hot topic in the first month of the season, could see more consistent time there as other players are needed in center.

Robert’s injury puts more emphasis on the continued absence of Adam Engel, who’s been sidelined since the spring with a strained hamstring. Monday, Hahn said that Engel is likely three weeks away from beginning a minor league rehab assignment. The White Sox needed their fourth outfielder before, and they could really use him now to help stabilize a banged-up outfield.

Hahn’s front office might even be spurred to look outside the organization, something the general manager said he didn’t feel great urgency to do in the wake of Jiménez’s injury. But down two starting outfielders and a couple key bats, that level of urgency could change, and it could intensify as the summer moves closer to the trade deadline.

Hahn said Monday that the White Sox will explore other options, using a colorful metaphor in saying that, "You have to figure out what the options are before deciding if the juice is worth the squeeze."

The news on Robert, of course, is not at all good for the White Sox, and while it’s still too early for the team to be forced to recalibrate its sky-high hopes for the season, it will be undoubtedly more difficult to meet them without both Jiménez and Robert.

 

With clear intentions to win in 2021, the White Sox hired a three-time World Series winner to helm the ship. Now the potential effectiveness of that move is a greater mystery than ever considering La Russa doesn’t have the full complement of talented players he and the White Sox thought he would when he got the job.

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