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White Sox’ Luis Robert showing ‘veteran stuff’ at the plate

Entering the game Saturday against the Red Sox, he was hitting .349 with a .946 OPS since returning from a hip-flexor injury that cost him almost three months.

Luis Robert bats during a game earlier this year in Kansas City.
AP Photos

Defensively, White Sox center fielder Luis Robert didn’t need much time to acclimate himself to the major leagues. As a rookie last season, Robert impressed with his speed and athleticism and earned a Gold Glove.

‘‘He was evidently ready to play defensively, got the Gold Glove,’’ Sox manager Tony La Russa said. ‘‘He’s got that knack of concentration reading balls, and he’s got the physical abilities.’’

Things were a little different for Robert at the plate. In September of the shortened 2020 season, Robert hit only .136 in 23 games and homered only once in 81 at-bats in a cold spell that might have cost him the American League Rookie of the Year award.

In 2021, however, Robert has taken a step forward offensively. Before going 4-for-5 with three doubles and three RBI on Saturday against the Red Sox, Robert was hitting .349 with a .946 OPS since returning from a hip-flexor injury that cost him most of May and all of June and July. His approach, which was raw at times last season, seems to have evolved.

‘‘What he’s done at the plate has been impressive, as far as cutting down the chasing and really hitting strikes, being more aggressive when he’s got the count in his favor and shortening up a little bit to put the ball in play,’’ La Russa said. ‘‘That’s veteran stuff. The fact he’s doing it this early is very impressive.’’

Robert looked refined when his single to right brought in Gavin Sheets to give the Sox a 4-0 lead Friday. Instead of attempting to pull a 94.1 mph sinker that was outside, Robert went with the pitch and drove in the run that turned out to be the difference in the Sox’ 4-3 victory.

‘‘I was trying to make good contact with the ball,’’ Robert said Friday through a translator. ‘‘I was able to make good contact in that situation, and I was able to drive that run in.’’

What about Vaughn?

Rookie Andrew Vaughn wasn’t in the lineup for the second consecutive day, but it wasn’t so he could recalibrate his swing.

‘‘He’s got some soreness in his legs, so we’re trying not to push him,’’ La Russa said.

Entering play Saturday, Vaughn was 0-for-13 in his last three games and 4-for-50 in his last 13. In the 54 games before that, he was slashing .303/.367/.528 with 10 homers.

Instead of Vaughn in left, where he has started 86 games this season, it was Romy Gonzalez, who made his third career start.

The legs issue is why Vaughn didn’t pinch-hit in the bottom of the 10th against Boston lefty Josh Taylor.

Hendriks issue?

Liam Hendriks threw a scoreless ninth but appeared to be experiencing some discomfort. La Russa said pitching coach Ethan Katz thought he noticed something and asked Hendriks, who said he was OK.

This and that

Right-hander Nick Pivetta is expected to be activated off the COVID-19 injured list to start Sunday for the Red Sox. Former Sox left-hander Chris Sale had been scheduled to pitch but was scratched after testing positive for COVID-19.

• On the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Chicago police officer Kenyatta Gaines sang the national anthem and retired New York firefighter Scott Schrimpe threw out a ceremonial first pitch.