Losing left fielder Eloy Jimenez for most or all of the season with an injury in spring training was a huge blow.
Losing center fielder Luis Robert for at least three months and possibly the season might be an even bigger loss to absorb. While Jimenez was a more polished hitter, Robert is an explosive and improving one, a five-tool talent with blazing speed and a Gold Glove at one of the most important positions on the field.
Moving forward without both of them is what a White Sox team with lofty postseason expectations has to deal with after it became known Monday that Robert suffered a complete tear of his right hip flexor Sunday and will not resume baseball activities for 12 to 16 weeks. General manager Rick Hahn, before catching a plane Monday to watch the Sox (15-12) carry on against the Reds in Cincinnati on Tuesday and Wednesday, said it’s too soon to know how long Robert will be out.
Consultations with specialists in the coming days will determine if surgery is the best option. The timeline is the same either way.
“The options include surgery if the tear has affected the tendon’s attachment to the bone,” Hahn said, “or a rehabilitation process in which natural healing will take place if the tear is to the muscle as opposed to the attachment.”
Robert, 23, was injured running out an infield single in the first inning of a 5-0 loss to the Indians on Sunday at Guaranteed Rate Field. The injury occurred just before he reached first base.
Robert is hitting .316/.359/.463 with an .822 OPS, one home run, nine doubles, a triple and four stolen bases. He won a Gold Glove and was second in voting for American League Rookie of the Year honors in 2020.
The Sox lost Jimenez with a pectoral injury during spring training, and they also lost Adam Engel during camp with a hamstring strain. With Engel not expected to begin a minor-league assignment for at least three weeks, Leury Garcia figures to take most of the innings in center.
The Sox also have light-hitting Billy Hamilton, who is 3-for-17 and best suited for pinch-running or late-inning defensive work. Sizing up the roster should prompt Hahn and vice president Ken Williams to explore a trade, but Hahn suggested it’s too soon for that. Besides, there are no Robert-type replacements available.
“Over the coming days, we’ll have conversations internally as well as those from outside the organization about other options,” Hahn said. “For now, we’ll look internally to fill this void the best we can.
“We’re still early in the season. It’s not exactly the time where you see potentially impactful players changing teams. But that doesn’t mean we aren’t going to at least explore what is potentially out there and evaluate it.”
A team that figured to feature an explosive lineup will now ask more from its pitching staff. Jimenez’s loss has been offset somewhat by AL Rookie of the Month Yermin Mercedes’ offense, but there’s a limit on unexpected surprises.
“It’s obviously very difficult and not at all how any team draws things up,” Hahn said of the Robert injury.
“There’s going to be opportunity for other players within the organization — that’s going to be something for [manager] Tony [La Russa] and the coaching staff to perhaps get creative with.”
It would be one thing if Robert was definitely coming back in time for September and the postseason — if the Sox make it — but that’s a big unknown.
“It hasn’t been ruled out,” Hahn said. “It just all depends on the healing timeframe, and unfortunately none of us is smart enough to know exactly how his body will respond to whatever is next. We’ll just have to wait and see.”
NOTE: Right-hander Reynaldo Lopez, who will start the season at Class AAA, had cornea surgery to correct a vision issue and is expected return to the Charlotte roster in two or three weeks.