Feb 27, 2024  |  
 | Remer,MN
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NextImg:White Sox slugger Luis Robert Jr. preparing for Home Run Derby

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.” 

Even before he hit 26 home runs before the All-Star break, watching Robert’s batting practice throughout his career suggested he doesn’t need much preparation for Monday’s Home Run Derby.

But 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. The first two rounds of the derby have a three-minute running clock starting with the first pitch, where players have to hit as many home runs 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,” 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 according to Grifol. While Clevinger came out of the session well, he last pitched on June 14 in Los Angeles when his right bicep 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,” said Grifol. “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 between Scholtens, Tanner Banks and Touki Touissant. 

Oscar’s anxiety

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

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

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

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