White Sox slugger Luis Robert Jr. preparing for Home Run Derby

The last few days have found Robert on the field with bullpen catcher Luis Sierra, who will pitch to him in Seattle, getting used to hitting with a timer.

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The White Sox’ Luis Robert Jr. has 26 homers this season.

The White Sox’ Luis Robert Jr. has 26 homers this season.

Matt Marton/AP

Coaches and teammates rave about Luis Robert Jr.’s easy power and how he doesn’t have to overswing to leave the yard.

“If you hang him a breaking ball, it’s a home run every single time,” Lucas Giolito said.

“It’s special,” Andrew Vaughn said. “When he hits some baseballs, they sound like gunshots.”

He has hit 26 home runs before the All-Star break, and watching Robert in batting practice throughout his career suggests he doesn’t need much preparation for the Home Run Derby on Monday.

The last few days, however, have found him on the field with bullpen catcher Luis Sierra, who will pitch to him in Seattle, getting used to hitting with a timer. The first two rounds of the derby have a three-minute running clock starting with the first pitch, and players have to hit as many homers as possible within the time limit. If Robert is able to advance to the end, it’s a two-minute final round.

“He’s got the makeup to win this thing,” manager Pedro Grifol said. “Now, what happens when there’s 40,000 people there and you’ve got a little heat on you, I don’t know. But he’s certainly got the makeup. He’s not afraid of the big stage, and he’s got the swing and the mentality for it. He’s definitely got the endurance.”

Rehabbing arms

Grifol spent time before his pregame media session Saturday watching a trio of injured White Sox pitchers throwing bullpens: Liam Hendriks, Mike Clevinger and Michael Kopech.

Out for the last month with right elbow inflammation, Hendriks threw only fastballs in his first bullpen session since hitting the injured list at a “nice and easy” intensity level, Grifol said. While Clevinger came out of the session well, he last pitched on June 14 in Los Angeles when his right biceps inflammation first flared up. With the amount of time Clevinger has missed, Grifol did not rule out a rehab assignment.

Kopech is the surest bet for the opening road trip after the All-Star break.

“Michael’s a little bit ahead of the other two,” Grifol said. “We were actually really encouraged there. Kopech’s strong, looks good.”

With last year’s preferred fill-in starter Davis Martin out for the year with Tommy John surgery, spot starts have been divided among Jesse Scholtens, Tanner Banks and Touki Toussaint.

Oscar’s anxiety

It came after he quickly fell behind 0-2, but Oscar Colas laying off three curveballs and eventually singling at the end of a nine-pitch battle against Cardinals starter Miles Mikolas in the third inning is what the Sox want to see.

“I think I’ve been better in handling the emotions and the situations of the game better than the first time,” Colas said after a two-hit performance. “When I get on the field, I have the mindset of just control what I can control.”

After winning a job out of spring training, Colas admitted that overeagerness led to his initial struggles and a demotion to Triple-A Charlotte. Grifol is hopeful that Colas’ fondness for following Robert around the clubhouse will pay off in that regard.

“One thing I think Oscar needs to continue to learn and work on is not overswinging,” Grifol said. “He’s got a good guy right next to him, which is Luis. And one of the things we talked about the other day is if you watch Luis’ approach, whether he’s 0-2 or 3-0, it’s still the same swing. There’s no overswing.”

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