Luis Robert’s rehab stint with Triple-A Charlotte is complete.
The center fielder will join the White Sox in Minneapolis and is expected to start in center field Monday night when the Sox open a three-game series against the Twins.
Robert, 23, suffered a Grade 3 strain of his right hip flexor running to first base May 2, and the Sox have been getting along without him since. He began his rehab assignment July 21 at High-A Winston-Salem, and now, two weeks after Eloy Jimenez returned from his injury, is set to return.
To make room for Robert, the Sox optioned infielder Gavin Sheets to Charlotte. They also released outfielder Luis Gonzalez.
“It was official this morning,” Sox manager Tony La Russa said Sunday as the team prepared to complete a three-game series against the Cubs at Wrigley Field.
“The guys are fired up, we’re all fired up.”
And why wouldn’t they be?
Robert was runner-up for American League Rookie of the Year in 2020 and won the Gold Glove Award for AL center fielders. He was batting .316/.359/.463 with one home run, one triple, nine doubles and eight RBI in 25 games when he got hurt. Stats aside, Robert’s presence will add a rangy, strong-armed dimension to center field, and his speed and power should inject a jolt of energy to a lineup that could use one. The Sox signed him to a six-year, $50 million contract extension in 2020.
Jimenez returned from a torn pectoral muscle suffered in spring training and has played in nine games since returning July 26. And now that Sox, with a 10 1/2 -game lead in the AL Central, are getting very close to having their full team together for the final two months of the season and postseason.
“To have them both on there at the same time and getting [catcher Yasmani Grandal] back one of these days, that’s something we look forward to,” La Russa said.
Grandal, coming back from knee surgery, has been working out with the team and could be going on a rehab assignment soon, perhaps in a week or two. He was booming batting practice home runs off the Jumbotron at Wrigley on Sunday.
“He’s very impatient and pushing it but the training staff is monitoring it, holding him back,” La Russa said. “But he’s making a lot of progress. Knock on wood he’ll be back sooner than we expected.”
Knock on wood, Robert won’t get sidetracked the way Jimenez did when he returned. Jimenez missed five days after experiencing groin soreness in his third game back.
“We expect [Robert] to play tomorrow and once you’re in person, I don’t know he couldn’t play back-to-back [games],” La Russa said. “But no matter how much you work out, when you play in the major leagues with the stress level there and the determination to dig a little deeper, you want to make sure we don’t have a little setback like we did with Eloy.
“Communication, and go day-to-day.”
Jimenez, who calls Robert his “brother,” has been in almost daily contact with his fellow outfielder. They rehabbed their injuries together in Arizona and watched from afar as fill-ins such as Andrew Vaughn, Brian Goodwin, Gavin Sheets, Jake Lamb, Gavin Sheets and Billy Hamilton helped the Sox build a comfortable lead without them and Adam Engel.
Sheets or Lamb, a corner infielder by trade who is out of minor-league options, could be the odd man out on the roster. Seeing a teammate exit won’t be fun but seeing the team — bolstered at the trade deadline with bullpen additions Craig Kimbrel and second baseman Cesar Hernandez — better equipped for a World Series bid will be.
“It’s going to be fun,” Jimenez said. “He’s one of the best players we have.”