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Ex-Cubs manager Joe Maddon likes where White Sox are headed

Maddon likes White Sox’ additions; Luis Robert is taking charge in the outfield; Yasmani Grandal is getting closer.

Angels manager Joe Maddon watches during the first inning of a spring training baseball game Friday, Feb. 28, 2020, in Tempe, Ariz.
Angels manager Joe Maddon watches during the first inning of a spring training baseball game Friday, Feb. 28, 2020, in Tempe, Ariz.
Charlie Riedel/AP

TEMPE, Ariz. — Angels manager Joe Maddon didn’t see the White Sox’ first team Sunday, but he has seen enough of them in recent springs and crosstown regular-season games as a Cubs manager, and he has paid attention to what they did in the offseason.

“I like what they look like,” Maddon said. “It’s a tough lineup, especially in that ballpark. As they pitch, they’re going to really ascend because they’re going to hit. All around the diamond, they’re kind of jacked up.”

The Sox have been rebuilding for three years, and after adding Yasmani Grandal, Edwin Encarnacion, Dallas Keuchel, Gio Gonzalez and Steve Cishek in free agency, they appear to have a roster capable of putting them over .500 for the first time since 2012.

“Getting Grandal was a big play,” Maddon said. “[Yoan] Moncada developing like he has . . . he needed time. [Former Cubs prospect] Eloy [Jimenez], I’m a big fan. All around the diamond, [Tim] Anderson at shortstop. They’re pretty tough. They’ve done a nice job of putting it together with acquisitions in free agency, but they’ve done some nice homegrown stuff, too.”

Robert taking charge

Luis Robert is the youngest and least experienced player in the lineup (he’s 22, Jimenez is 23 and Nomar Mazara is 24), but he has looked comfortable taking charge as he should as the center fielder.

Against the Rangers on Saturday, Robert ran a long way from right-center, called off Jimenez and caught Joey Gallo’s fly ball near the warning track in left-center.

“The coaches have encouraged me to take any ball that I can,” Robert said. “It’s not that I want to do Eloy’s job. I know I have great range and can get to a lot of balls. And if I’m able to do it, and as the center fielder I know I have the priority, then I will do it.”

Grandal getting close

Grandal, who hasn’t played a game because of the mild calf strain he suffered before camp opened, is slated to catch in a B game Wednesday morning against the Brewers in Glendale. The plan calls for Grandal to catch three innings and lead off every inning to get him more at-bats.

“See if we can get some breaks out of the [batter’s box],” manager Rick Renteria said.

This and that

Encarnacion (stiff back) is improving and is expected to be in the lineup Tuesday as the designated hitter.

“He doesn’t feel like he’s having any problems,’’ Renteria said.

• Left-hander Jace Fry (back) threw a bullpen session Sunday.

• Gonzalez threw his second bullpen session and “looked good,” Renteria said. Without needing a fifth starter in the first week and probably asking for five innings maximum in the early going, the Sox are still expecting the 34-year-old lefty to be ready for the regular season.