Luis Robert inches closer to return, steps up rehab process to Triple-A Charlotte

Robert, who suffered a Grade 3 hip flexor strain in May, played in four games at High-A Winston-Salem.

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Luis Robert of the White Sox celebrates his three-run home run against the Royals on September 03, 2020 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Center fielder Luis Robert moved another step closer to a return to the White Sox when his injury-rehab assignment was transferred from High-A Winston-Salem to Triple-A Charlotte on Tuesday.

Robert, who was second in American League Rookie of the Year voting and a Gold Glove winner in 2020, suffered a Grade 3 strain of his right hip flexor May 2.

Robert, who played his first game at Winston-Salem last Wednesday, was expected to be in Charlotte’s lineup Tuesday. If he uses the full 20 days allowed for a minor-league rehab stint, Robert would be back for the ‘‘Field of Dreams’’ game against the Yankees on Aug. 12 in Dyersville, Iowa. The Sox haven’t given a timetable, but the most optimistic speculation pegs him for a return as soon as next week.

‘‘You have to start with just his movement, how he’s running and shifting and breaking left to right and all that,’’ manager Tony La Russa said. ‘‘It’s been good, and his times are excellent. Then the baseball timing comes, but it has to start with having a healthy base. We’re optimistic at this point.’’

Robert played in four games at Winston-Salem, going 3-for-12 with a double, three RBI, three strikeouts and a walk.

Left fielder Eloy Jimenez, who suffered a torn pectoral muscle during spring training, also started his rehab at Winston-Salem. He played two games there before transferring to Charlotte. Jimenez returned to the Sox on Monday, but La Russa, comparing the rehab period to a spring training, cautioned against bringing Robert back too soon.

‘‘In the end, you count on the experts that are watching him, watching bat speed and timing and comparing it to where he is normally,’’ La Russa said. ‘‘But I think it would be a mistake to rush him, whether it’s physically or baseball-wise.’’

Jimenez in left, Vaughn in right

After serving as the designated hitter in his season debut Monday, Jimenez started in left field, pushing Andrew Vaughn to right.

Vaughn, who entered the game Tuesday against the Royals batting .320/.342/.573 with four home runs and 11 RBI in July, is a converted first baseman who has looked superior to Jimenez defensively in left field. La Russa said more time in right is in Vaughn’s future, although a miscue Tuesday cost the Sox a run in the Royals’ two-run second.

‘‘Absolutely,’’ La Russa said. ‘‘If it’s a day where he and Eloy both play, he’s not playing first base because Jose [Abreu] is there.’’

Vaughn had played two innings in right field and has made good reads and jumps on fly balls, but he dropped a two-out liner by Michael Taylor in the second, allowing a run to score.

Jimenez, meanwhile, made a running catch toward the left-field line on a fly by Carlos Santana in the first, threw out Taylor trying to score on a single by Nicky Lopez in the second and made a shoestring catch on a liner by Taylor in the fourth.

Deadline distractions

La Russa said there’s no getting around the distraction that is the trade deadline (3 p.m. Friday) and fighting the possibility of losing an edge because of it. The Sox’ front office is exploring trades for help in the bullpen and at second base.

‘‘There’s no doubt that our front office is trying to help . . . because that’s the way it should be,’’ La Russa said. ‘‘But we can’t get distracted with the game that’s being played that day. We just communicate, just play today, and sooner or later we’ll find out if we get help or not. But don’t get distracted and lose an edge.’’

Broadcast news

Announcer Jason Benetti will be NBC’s lead voice on baseball for the Tokyo Olympics, working with Eduardo Perez calling pool play, the semifinals and the bronze- and gold-medal games. Benetti will call games from the NBC studio in Stamford, Connecticut, and will miss six Sox games — Aug. 1 and Aug. 3-7. Radio voice Len Kasper will fill in on NBC Sports Chicago.

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