GLENDALE, Ariz. — Former White Sox center fielder Aaron Rowand describes Cuban outfield prospect Luis Robert the way most coaches and scouts describe him, with superlatives about tools, strength and athleticism.
But Rowand, the Sox’ outfield and baserunning coordinator, also has an encouraging word about Robert’s coachability that should bode well for his development.
‘‘Works his tail off, quick learner,’’ Rowand said Monday at Camelback Ranch. ‘‘He’s smart. You ask him to do something . . . and he does it. It’s impressive.’’
About an hour later, the 20-year-old Robert played center field and went 2-for-3 with a stolen base in a ‘‘B’’ game against some big-league arms for the Dodgers. Batting third, Robert popped out against left-hander Hyun-Jin Ryu, lined a double into the left-field corner on the first pitch from closer Kenley Jansen and stole third, then beat out a grounder to shortstop for an infield single.
Signed for a $26 million bonus in June — and costing the Sox $26 million more in taxes for exceeding their international bonus-pool allotment — Robert hasn’t disappointed during his first two weeks in major-league camp. Rowand said this about Robert, a 6-2, 210-pounder ranked as the No. 4 prospect and the best athlete in the Sox’ system by Baseball America:
‘‘He’s a five-tool guy. He’s athletic, has great speed, a great arm. Really good hands. Hands-y in the outfield. Covers a lot of ground. Works hard. Has a lot of power, a lot of pop. And he has a short, simple, good swing. And he’s young. When he fills out, he’s going to be even bigger and stronger than he already is.’’
Robert used his speed to get on base and to take an extra one with the steal.
(Here is Robert stealing third against Jansen.)
‘‘He takes short, choppy steps and still runs the way he does,’’ Rowand said. ‘‘He always has his feet under him, is always balanced. He’s going to be a good player.’’
Robert is playing in the United States for the first time. In 28 games last season in the Dominican Summer League, he batted .314 with three home runs and 14 RBI, with 23 strikeouts and 22 walks. He will open the season at Class A Kannapolis or Winston-Salem.
Shields set for first start
Right-hander Miguel Gonzalez will pitch Wednesday against the Reds, and right-hander James Shields will make his Cactus League debut in a split-squad game Thursday against the Rangers. Right-hander Michael Kopech will start against the Royals on Thursday to keep Shields from facing the team he likely will pitch against on opening day.
Shields, 36, has been getting in his innings on the back fields in simulated games. He is continuing to work on the lower arm slot that helped him finish 2017 with a 4.33 ERA in his last 10 starts.
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