White Sox center fielder Luis Robert has been cleared to begin a rehab assignment and will be on the field at High-A Winston-Salem on Wednesday as he comes back from a Grade 3 right hip flexor strain.
“I’m excited for the process to begin,” Robert said.
With left fielder Eloy Jimenez into his second week of rehab games, it was the latest piece of recent good news coming from the recovery corner of the Sox’ lengthy injury chain. Robert suffered the injury May 4 running out a ground ball.
“I was afraid of not coming back this season,” he said Monday.
Now, if he uses the full 20 days allowed for a minor-league rehab stint, Robert could be back, along with Jimenez likely returning before him, for the Field of Dreams game against the Yankees in Dyersville, Iowa, on Aug. 12.
The Sox made the announcement between games of a doubleheader split with the Twins at Guaranteed Rate Field. The Twins won the first game 3-2 in eight innings, and the Sox (57-37) won the nightcap 5-3 on Gavin Sheets’ three-run walk-off homer in the seventh against Jose Berrios.
The initial timeline for Robert was three to four months, so he is moving on a rather fast pace.
“The doctors did a great job at first, just nailing the diagnostic and telling me what to do,” Robert said. “And then my body reacting very well, and then the work that I’ve been doing with the trainers [in Arizona] has been outstanding, too. All those factors have put me on the fast track.”
The same can be said for Jimenez, who is coming back from a torn left pectoral muscle suffered during spring training. Jimenez was 8-for-27 with two homers and a double through his first seven rehab games at Winston-Salem and Triple-A Charlotte, and he should be in a Sox uniform before Robert.
If Jimenez uses the maximum 20 rehab days, he would return the last weekend of July, when the Sox host the Indians, although returning when the Sox are in Kansas City leading to that series might not be out of the question.
“It’s all positive,” manager Tony La Russa said of Jimenez. “There’s the expected timing thing, whether it’s at the plate or reading balls, but physically, they’re being very careful, smart with him. It’s all good.”
While Jimenez has expressed no apprehension along his comeback trail, Robert might need a game to get to the same place mentally.
“The last test is going to be when I start a real game,” he said. “That’s when I’m going to see if the fear is there or not. Right now, I’m just waiting for that game on Wednesday and see what happens and how it goes.”
The Sox built the best record in the American League at the All-Star break despite injuries to Jimenez, Robert, Nick Madrigal, Yasmani Grandal, Michael Kopech and more. Getting Jimenez and Robert back by August would provide a big boost for the home stretch and into the postseason. Jimenez won a Silver Slugger award last season and Robert won a Gold Glove while finishing second in AL Rookie of the Year voting.
“We’re serious about getting that ring,” Robert said. “That is motivation for all of us.”
Robert was batting .316/.359/.463 with a home run, a triple and nine doubles in 25 games when he got hurt.
“[Eloy and I] are very happy and excited,” Robert said. “We know we’re going to be back soon. We talk every day. We talk about the things we want to do once we come back and how important it’s going to be for the team. It’s going to be fun.”
“[Robert has] gone through so much,” La Russa said. “He and Eloy are huge parts of this club, but we’re in first place because we’ve had incredible contributions from guys, made in tough games.”