Sox Reporter

Sox sit Robert as he learns his way out of September slump

Sox Reporter

September hasn't been quite as electric for Luis Robert as August was.

Let's not go nuts, of course. Robert hit that 458-foot moonshot against the Kansas City Royals this month. He made that insane, catch-of-the-year-candidate diving snag in September, too.

But look at the numbers overall.

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In August, Robert established himself as one of the game's superstars in the making, with a .298/.356/.660 slash line to go along with nine homers, 20 RBIs, 19 runs scored and various defensive feats.

In September, only 10 games to this point, he's slashing just .135/.233/.216, with that one gargantuan homer his lone extra-base hit. He's struck out 14 times in 10 September games after striking out 32 times in 26 August contests.

Again, this is no need for panic. The dude's still a top contender to win AL Rookie of the Year honors, and his five-tool ability means he's perfectly capable of unleashing a jaw-dropping highlight — and helping his team win — at any moment.

But there's no doubt that the rookie has finally discovered some challenges in his transition to the major leagues.

Robert was out of the White Sox lineup for Sunday's series finale against the Detroit Tigers, an off day in line with many that manager Rick Renteria has given to youngsters over the years.

"No different than anything we've had over the last four years," Renteria said. "You've seen when we've given them a day just to be able to watch, take it in without having to do anything. Just take in the game. ... It gives him an opportunity just to take a breath.

 

"These are common little waves, and it doesn't take away from all of the gifts he has in terms of talent. He's going to be fine. Today's a good day to go ahead and give him a little respite, let him see, both a physical and emotional respite of watching everything. He'll be fine."

I'm not breaking any news by telling you that Robert has an immense amount of talent, and that alone might help him break out of this sour stretch at the plate before the White Sox need him to be a dependable presence in their lineup for important games down the stretch and once the postseason rolls around.

But this is also part of the process of him maturing into the hitter he's eventually going to be.

As impressive as Robert's been, he's 23 years old and has just 43 major league games under his belt. He's no finished product, which ought to frighten American League pitchers all the more.

Robert's next lesson in his big league growth is figuring out how to deal with this sort of slump.

"From my small sample size (working) with him last year (at Triple-A Charlotte), his approach to that is, 'I'm going to swing out of it,'" White Sox hitting coach Frank Menechino said Sunday. "'Well, hold up now. That's what they want you to do, try to swing out of it.'

"So these are the important lessons he has to learn where sometimes less is more. 'Go up there and see some pitches and prove to these guys you're not going to swing at everything.' It's a learning experience for him. It was a learning experience for him in Triple-A. He went through these stretches in Triple-A. And they get it when they get it.

"For me to sit here and say what should he do, we could all sit here and tell him what he needs to do, but he's got to do it and he's got to figure it out himself. ... He'll figure it out and slow the game down.

"But a lot of times when guys are in a little slump, or let's just say a full-blown slump, you get to the point where you press. You get to the point where you break your helmet or bat, go off in the cage. And then you get to the point where you don't care no more. 'I'm just going to go up there and put the bat on the ball.' Those three stages, players will get to. When all of a sudden they don't care about getting a hit, their body relaxes, they react to what they see and they start hitting again."

The White Sox could sure use Robert to get back to normal and fast, as they figure to need all the help they can get with four games against the division-rival Minnesota Twins starting Monday on the South Side. Robert played hero in the most recent victory over the Land of 10,000 Lakers, hitting a game-tying home run and a game-winning double in the late innings on the final day of August.

 

So far, September's been a different story. But when you've got the ability Robert has, a slump can become ancient history in a hurry.

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