GLENDALE, Ariz. — Getting expensive center field prospect Luis Robert to stop sliding head first won’t be easy.
“That’s part of my game,” Robert said. “That’s how I feel comfortable.”
Robert has been sidelined by injuries to his left thumb three times, most recently jamming it on a head-first slide into second base on a stolen base attempt during an intrasquad game Saturday. Robert’s aggressiveness and speed — not to mention his power — are what make him an exciting player and the 40th-ranked prospect per MLB Pipeline.
But Sox manager Rick Renteria wasn’t pleased that Robert went on his own.
“Those are the things you sometimes can’t control,” Robert said through translator Billy Russo Thursday. “When I got on base, I wasn’t planning to steal the base. I have that instinct and I just took off. That was why I wasn’t wearing my protective glove that time. But if you remember, I hit two triples [this spring] and I slid head-first and nothing happened.”
The first time Robert injured the thumb was last spring during a Cactus League game, when the thumb made contact with the dirt as he slid into second base. He would later hit a grand slam in the same game, but he had suffered a sprained ligament, had the thumb placed in a cast and did not play at Class A Kannapolis until June. Then Robert re-injured the thumb making a play against the outfield wall on July 3 and was out another month.
This issue appears to be minor. Robert took live batting practice Thursday morning and “then we’ll see if starting tomorrow I can start playing,” he said.
“The doctor told me it was nothing serious.”
Robert will be more careful to wear protection for the thumb when he’s on the bases and in the field.
“Yes, I will be wearing a protector there,” he said. “The thumb is still a little weak. But I’m going to start wearing that.”
Robert said he feels like he can reach the base sooner sliding head first. And he’s not the only player who does, obviously.
“If I have to make an adjustment, I will do it,” he said. “But those are things you decide right away when the situation is there.”
The Sox gave Robert, 21, to a $26 international million signing bonus on May 27, 2017. The team paid an additional $26 million in tax for exceeding their international bonus pool.