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Luis Robert collapsed in a heap behind first base with a torn hip flexor on May 2, and the game took a similar shape. The White Sox lost 5-0 to Cleveland, and nobody could blame the White Sox for sudden deflation because the entire cabin lost pressure that day.
If only you could travel back in time to your May 2 self, put a hand around their shoulder, tousle their hair and offer to buy an iced cream. “He’ll be back before you know it,” you’d say, “and the White Sox will be leading the division by 10½ games.”
If that doesn’t sound strange, it’s only because we’ve been marveling at the Sox’s divisional lead despite the obstacles for weeks now, with Eloy Jiménez’s return the most recent cause for celebration. Now Luis Robert is back, with Gavin Sheets is returning to Charlotte in order to make room as yet another unheralded position player who earned a certificate in Buying The 2021 White Sox Two More Weeks.
After so many series spent jumping from one floating platform to another in order to maintain altitude, it’s been a pleasure to see the promise of stability rolling in waves. Before Robert, there was Jiménez. Before Jiménez came the additions of Craig Kimbrel, Ryan Tepera and César Hernández. If Yasmani Grandal can return before the next significant injury, these White Sox will want for nothing.
In the meantime, I imagine there will be short-term bumps as Robert gets reacclimated to the speed of the MLB game. To reuse the institutional calluses from previous IL returns, I’m treating Robert’s return being half Jiménez and half Adam Engel.
Like Jiménez, Robert is a hitter who has to rein himself in from swinging at everything. While he’d made strides in most areas of production through his first 25 games this season relative to his 2020 season, it’s not because he was anymore selective, but because he’d improved his bat-to-ball abilities in the zone.
Jiménez came out of the chute * * * * * * * * *
As for Sheets, he already faced an uphill climb to remain on the roster as a third left-handed corner guy behind Brian Goodwin and Jake Lamb. Sheets is the only one with options remaining, and it makes sense to keep all options on hand. He’d also gotten some run at DH with diminishing returns, hitting .205/.239/.364 over his last 15 games (10 starts). Pitchers started throwing him more sinkers and soft stuff, and while his contact rate remained admirable for a rookie, he had to settle for shift-beating singles the other way, rather than driving the ball.
He’ll return to Charlotte with an idea of the weakness pitchers found, and he can still use everyday reps in the outfield if the White Sox are still intent on using him there (or marketing him there for other teams). He’s taking the news constructively, at least to fans.
In order to make room for Robert coming off the 60-day injured list, the White Sox released Luis González, whose season crashed to a halt after injuring his shoulder on a diving catch attempt back on July 18. He was just hitting his stride at the plate, hitting .333/.433/.588 in July before the injury.
The White Sox said González will undergo season-ending surgery next week, and because teams can’t outright injured players, the release is the only way to remove him from the 40-man roster. It wouldn’t surprise me if the White Sox tried re-signing him, as they did the same for Ryan Burr, Nicky Delmonico and the recently released Tyler Johnson (corrected).
(Photo by Luis Robert sliding in front of his new teammate by Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire)