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White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson will lead off when he returns to lineup

Manager Rick Renteria said Anderson will return to the leadoff spot when he returns from the injured list, probably next week, even though rookie Luis Robert has excelled there since Anderson was sidelined with a groin strain.

Tim Anderson will return to the White Sox leadoff spot when he comes off the injured list.
Tim Anderson will return to the White Sox leadoff spot when he comes off the injured list.
Tony Dejak/AP

White Sox manager Rick Renteria said shortstop Tim Anderson will return to the leadoff spot when he gets back from the injured list, probably early next week, even though rookie Luis Robert has excelled there since Anderson was sidelined with a strained groin.

And that’s more than OK with Anderson, who likes batting first.

“I get to start the party,” he said Thursday. “I get to set the tone.”

Renteria started discussions about who should be the one to bat leadoff when he said Robert — who has taken baseball by storm with a spectacular first couple of weeks — will slot down lower.

“I still consider Timmy our leadoff guy,” Renteria said. “I look at the guy that’s had the experience. Luis is doing it on sheer talent. Some at-bats look very, very impressive, and some not as impressive. Overwhelmingly, his talent is taking over.”

Renteria saw Robert’s talent before most of the world did, so he’s among the least surprised to see what Robert is doing — even as Robert struck out in his first three times up Thursday night against the Brewers. But Renteria knows he’s handling a piece of gold and will do everything he can to polish it to perfection.

“You guys are measuring it through the eyes of sheer talent right now,” Renteria said. “I take every at-bat, I look at every swing and every approach he takes to measure where he’s at. There’s a couple of at-bats where he walked away from that box kind of scratching his head going, ‘Man, what just happened there?’ I know I’m not the only one who sees that. I think everybody sees that. But we also are amazed at what he’s done in other at-bats.”

Anderson, who led the majors with a .335 average last season, was hitting .333/.355/.567 in seven games. Not bad.

Robert has led off five times, batting .429/.520/.667 with a homer and three stolen bases. Even better.

“He’s still learning. He’s still young,” Renteria said. “He’s reacting. I want him to be anticipatory. An anticipatory player always has an idea how he approaches his at-bats, runs the bases, defends. Right now he’s reacting — it’s pure skill he’s bringing to the table. I don’t want him to ever lose that positive energy he brings and that confidence he has. We just want to help him understand how to direct it in a more efficient way.”

Robert batted sixth one time and seventh five times before moving to leadoff. Renteria didn’t say where he might move him to, but it’s safe to say he’s set with Yoan Moncada second, Jose Abreu third and Yasmani Grandal fourth.

“If that’s enough to give everybody some fodder and conversation and question why would I do that, well, [Anderson is] a pretty good hitter,” Renteria said. “He’s done pretty well for us up there. Put it this way: I wouldn’t lose having one or the other up there.”

Lineup construction is often overrated, and Renteria is right — it makes for good fodder. As he gets Anderson back, and with Nomar Mazara now playing right, Renteria can stack eight bats together — or nine if Leury Garcia continues to produce. As they say, nice problems to have.

“It definitely has been exciting to watch,” Anderson said. “They’ve been swinging the heck out of the bats. Definitely excited to get back in the lineup.”

Anderson said he had a full day of work Thursday and felt ready.

And when he’s back, let the lineup debates begin.

“That’s great,” Renteria said. “I love the fact that people are conversing about the Chicago White Sox in that manner because that means we have significant pieces. We are very thankful to have the players that we have right now that are giving us a lot of potential joy as we continue to move forward.”