GLENDALE, Ariz. — Jose Abreu’s locker at Camelback Ranch is the first on the left as you enter the room.
Luis Robert’s is the second on the left, right where Abreu, 33, can keep a close eye on his fellow Cuban.
Robert knows he’s being watched.
“Always,” he said through a translator. “Just to be on time in the morning. When we go to the cages, when we hit, when we go to the field or the gym. He has taken me and won’t leave me behind. I have to be with him.”
Robert, 22, who signed a six-year, $50 million contract in January without having played a major-league game, is the Sox’ youngest prized commodity. He will be their Opening Day center fielder. He has a lot of talent and a lot to learn about being a big leaguer.
Eloy Jimenez is from the Dominican Republic but he speaks Robert’s language, plays alongside him in the outfield and can best relate to what Robert is going through right now. A year ago, Jimenez was the 22-year-old with the big, new contract, the young star at Sox camp with massive minor-league numbers and major-league expectations.
“They’ve both taken me under their wings,” Robert said. “Coaching me, guiding me. It’s an exciting thing to go through. Eloy is young but he has experience. Pito [Abreu] is a veteran and everybody follows him.”
Step out of line and there are consequences, Robert said. Like fines.
“If I get here late or miss something, I have to pay Eloy and Pito,” Robert said. “If Eloy gets here late, he has to pay me and Abreu.”
Robert wouldn’t be the first young, budding star to act like he owns the room. He knows his reputation as the next big thing precedes him.
“Yes, of course,” he said. “But I’m new here. And as much talent as you have, that doesn’t preclude you from doing things the right way. I lean on them because they have experience and following them will be better for me. You can always learn from someone with more experience. That’s what I’m paid to do here.”
Abreu, who signed a three-year $50 million deal with the Sox this offseason, earns his pay not only with his play but also for his role as a clubhouse leader and mentor, and not just to Robert. He said Robert, joke-cracking aside, is mature for his age. But Robert still treats him more like a father than a big brother.
“I am going to guide him to do things the right way,” Abreu said Friday.
“He doesn’t need [special treatment] because he’s very mature, but everyone needs the help of a veteran.”
Robert is off to a nice start this spring. He has a home run, triple, a double off the wall, a stolen base, walk and one strikeout in 10 plate appearances. He has made good reads in the outfield, looks comfortable in center and has made a couple of nice running catches.
He knows he is a top candidate for rookie of the year, an award he hopes to win.
“Yes of course,” he said. “That is what I work for, to have a great season and help the team win games. You have to keep working hard every day, and you will have success. If rookie of the year is there, I’ll be glad to have it.”