The waiting game continues for the White Sox. Star center fielder Luis Robert won’t return until next week at the earliest, but reliever Joe Kelly could pitch Saturday night.
In the meantime, Sox scouts will scour the country for upgrades with Tuesday’s 3 p.m. trade deadline looming.
The obvious need is relief pitching, but a source confirmed the Sox have looked at Diamondbacks left-handed-hitting outfielder David Peralta, whose success and experience would improve their chances against right-handers.
The expected return of Kelly alleviated fears that the Sox would need more relief help in a market full of buyers, especially after Reynaldo Lopez was put on the 10-day injured list, retroactive to Monday, because of a strained lower back.
Kelly experienced discomfort in his right biceps Wednesday, but manager Tony La Russa said he had previous bouts and would require only a brief rest.
La Russa anticipates the front office will try to improve the roster but likes that the rotation is set.
“Our bullpen, even losing [Lopez], we’re deep enough to compete because guys have proven they can step up,” La Russa said before the game Friday night against the Athletics. “I’m sure they’re working, and if they think there’s something good, they’ll make it. If not, we can win with what we’ve got.”
Robert, who hasn’t played for the Sox since experiencing blurred vision July 15, went 1-for-5 with two strikeouts Thursday as the designated hitter in his first game on a rehab assignment for Triple-A Charlotte at Nashville.
But Robert experienced cold symptoms and didn’t play Friday. He is expected to return Saturday to the Knights’ lineup but will need to play center field to convince the medical staff that he’s ready to rejoin the Sox.
“They’ve got a lot to see this weekend,” La Russa said.
Friday started a stretch of 31 games in 31 days (with Aug. 8 serving as a day off before an Aug. 9 doubleheader at Kansas City), so health and depth are essential to the Sox’ hopes of catching the Twins and Guardians in the American League Central.
“The philosophy I was raised under, lose a game, don’t lose a pitcher,” La Russa said. “We’ve had games, especially here at home, that have gotten away because we weren’t going to use guys that shouldn’t pitch that day.”
The Sox recalled right-hander Davis Martin from Charlotte to take Lopez’s roster spot, but a more intriguing move was outrighting right-hander Parker Markel to Charlotte.
The move clears a space on the 40-man roster, allowing the Sox flexibility for an acquisition.
They’ve continued to evaluate relievers, such as David Robertson and Mychal Givens of the Cubs. Robertson has limited left-handed hitters to a .137 batting average and .219 slugging percentage. Givens hasn’t allowed an earned run in his last 15 appearances.
Peralta, 34, is batting .248 with 12 home runs and 41 RBI, but he’s a lifetime .296 hitter against right-handers with an .844 OPS. He has played left field exclusively the last 3½ seasons but can play right.
Peralta would be an upgrade over Gavin Sheets, who had three hits in his last 28 at-bats entering play Friday and a .684 OPS against right-handers.
La Russa has been familiar with Peralta since his days with the Diamondbacks when Peralta made the conversion from pitcher to outfielder. He was the team’s chief baseball officer.