GOODYEAR, Ariz. — The injury bug already had taken a painful bite out of White Sox prospects this spring. And then Luis Robert went down Thursday and caused another scare.
At a back field in Peoria, Arizona, in a morning B game, Robert, 20, the megamillion Cuban prospect who has played to rave reviews from scouts and coaches alike during his first audition in the United States, sat near second base dazed after getting smacked on the helmet by Padres shortstop Fernando Tatis.
Manager Rick Renteria and the Sox’ training staff went out to check on the Sox’ $52 million investment. After staying down for a while, Robert got up and walked off, none the worse for wear.
Until that moment, Robert’s morning was as splendid as the blue skies and cool, crisp Arizona air. Batting third in the Sox’ lineup, he cracked an RBI double in the first inning, grounded out and walked in three plate appearances. Then he stole second, but as he finished his slide, Tatis swung his glove around and clocked Robert.
“He rung his bell a little bit,’’ said Renteria, who said his level of concern was minimal.
“As soon as I said, ‘I’m going to take you out,’ he stood up, ‘No, you’re not.’ I said, ‘Yeah, we’re going to take you out, make sure you’re OK.’ ’’
And enough of these trainer sightings, Renteria must have thought. The Sox’ spring, with its feel-good rebuild buzz, had been great until last week. The comedown began with news that strong-armed outfielder Micker Adolfo has a sprained ulnar collateral ligament and could be facing Tommy John surgery on his throwing elbow. Then the organization’s top prospect, outfielder Eloy Jimenez, was limited from game action because of a sore knee. And then the big blow: Third baseman Jake Burger, the Sox’ 2017 first-round pick, ruptured his left Achilles tendon running out a ground ball. Burger had surgery in Chicago and will miss an entire year of precious development.
“I really don’t think about it in those terms,’’ Renteria said, downplaying the developments. “It’s baseball, things happen. I wasn’t too concerned even with Luis. I’m not concerned with Eloy. The situation with Burger, things like that happen. We feel bad for him, but he’ll be fine. Surgery went well for him today.’’
But that’s a little much to absorb in four days, especially piled on the injuries of 2014 first-round pick Carlos Rodon (recovering from shoulder surgery) and 2016 first-round reliever Zack Burdi (out for the season recovering from Tommy John surgery).
When Robert was sitting there, a “what’s going on here?” chill had to be running down a front-office spine or two.
Robert seemed a bit confused as to what happened but said he felt fine.
“I don’t know what happened on that play,” he said. “When I was sliding into second, I saw the ball coming at me, then I just felt the hit to my head, but I’m good. I feel good.”
In what could have been an added deep twist of fate, Tatis is the prospect the Sox traded to the Padres to get James Shields in 2016. All Tatis has done since that deal is climb to a No. 9 prospect ranking in baseball.
Robert, ranked No. 57, could climb higher if he’s as good as what scouts are seeing of him for the first time. He has looked comfortable, relaxed, powerful and smooth early on.
“I felt comfortable and relaxed at the plate,’’ Robert said after going 1-for-2 with the walk.
Before this game, he was 1-for-4 with a single and a walk in four Cactus League games as a late-inning replacement. He has handled everything hit his way in center.
For the Sox, no more scary moments would be appreciated.
Follow me on Twitter @CST_soxvan.
White Sox training staff and manager Rick Renteria (gray pullover) tend to Luis Robert while Padres training staff checks on Fernando Tatis (94). (Photo by Kim Contreras/Future Sox)