White Sox’ Luis Robert Jr. finally finds offense

Entering Tuesday’s series opener with the Guardians, Robert has homered in three straight games. Over 13 games in May, Robert has a 1.442 OPS and has basically carried the Sox offense.

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The White Sox’s Luis Robert Jr. homers against the Astros on Saturday.

The White Sox’s Luis Robert Jr. homers against the Astros on Saturday.

Erin Hooley/AP

Outfielder Luis Robert Jr. has had a topsy-turvy season so far. In late April, he was benched for not running hard to first base, something he said he did to protect a tight hamstring but neglected to tell manager Pedro Grifol about — an episode that seemed to highlight the plummeting White Sox’ dysfunction.

Now, in mid-May, he’s hitting like one of the best players in baseball and the kind of performer the Sox expected when they anointed him as one of the centerpieces of their rebuild.

Entering Tuesday’s series opener with the Guardians, Robert has homered in three consecutive games. Over 13 games in May, he has a 1.442 OPS and has basically carried the Sox’ offense.

Third baseman Jake Burger summarized what Robert has been doing recently: “It’s incredible. You’re just expecting him to hit a ball [with a 110-plus mph exit velocity] over the fence, so it’s really fun watching him, especially when he’s really hot.”

So, what changed?

In March and April, when Robert hit just .213 and had a minuscule .254 on-base percentage, he walked only four times. Halfway through May, he already has drawn five walks and capitalized on pitchers giving him better pitches to hit, getting on base 50.9% of the time and slugging .933.

“I think the results that I’m getting right now are part of all the work that I’ve been doing,” Robert said through a translator. “That’s really the only thing you can control, just the work that you can do. Sometimes you work hard and the results are there. Sometimes you keep working hard and the results aren’t there. But you still have to work. That’s all that I attribute my results to right now, just the hard work that I’ve been doing.”

Grifol has noticed that hard work, with a focus on decision-making, can make someone as talented as Robert extremely dangerous if it’s good.

“He can hit all kinds of pitches,” Grifol said. “He just has to make sure they are in the strike zone. He’s doing a really good job of preparing himself to do that.”

Robert said the only switch in preparation is that he has gone back to drills he was doing in the offseason with his personal trainer and personal hitting coach.

“I haven’t been able to incorporate those to my work here,” he said. “But now I was able to do it.”

However he’s getting these results, the Sox aren’t complaining. They badly need what he’s producing. Eloy Jimenez, who was seen walking around Sunday and seemed to be in his typically jovial mood, is still in the early stages of his recovery from an emergency appendectomy. Andrew Benintendi and Tim Anderson are waiting for their first home runs of the season, and the Sox have only scored 11 runs in their last five games.

Robert has kept them somewhat afloat during one of the best stretches of his career.

“I have had very good moments in my career in the majors,” he said. “I think the first month of my first year, my rookie year [in 2021], was very good. In 2021, after the [torn hip flexor] injury when I came back, I had a pretty good run, too. And I feel good now. I think it’s just that I’ve been able to feel healthy and consistent, and the results are there.”

NOTE: The Sox pushed Michael Kopech back to Friday against the Royals and will start Dylan Cease on Thursday against the Guardians. Kopech pitched last Friday against the Astros, throwing 94 pitches in 4⅔ innings.

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