Before Luis Robert donned a White Sox jersey, before he signed his name on his new contract, before he even entered the room where he was to be introduced as one of the brightest stars in the White Sox rebuild, there were those who came before him.
Quite literally, Robert, the 19-year-old Cuban outfielder, was surrounded by his fellow countrymen who have worn the White Sox uniform prior. There was, of course, the legendary Minnie Minoso, former White Sox shortstop Alexei Ramirez, current All-Star first baseman Jose Abreu and current top prospect Yoan Moncada, banners of all four players to the sides of the table where Robert sat with general manager Rick Hahn.
Saturday was the latest step in the White Sox rebuild, the team adding Robert to their list of big-time prospects that has fans drooling over lineups and pitching staffs a few years down the road.
But Saturday was also the latest step in a franchise tradition of bringing in Cuban players, a tradition that seemed to have helped the White Sox land Robert.
"The White Sox tradition for Cuban players was something that motivated me to sign with this team," Robert said through a translator during Saturday's introductory press conference. "It's something that made me feel comfortable.
"I feel proud because those players were examples for us in Cuba. For me now to be here wearing the same uniform as them is a huge honor for me."
Comfort seemed to be the biggest factor in Robert's decision to sign with the White Sox over other bidders. Hahn explained Saturday that the team had been scouting Robert since he was just 14 years old, and when asked what the most decisive factor was in this process, Robert said the White Sox showed the most interest.
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But there was something to continuing the team's Cuban tradition. Hahn said that Robert's talent certainly meant more than simply his nation of origin, but he said that the franchise's tradition helped with its pitch to Robert, a pitch that included a video with personalized messages from Abreu and Moncada.
"It was certainly part of our identity that we presented to him to help inform him about where we were and the level of success that we’ve had with similar type players," Hahn said. "We certainly felt that having a comfortable and welcoming environment for similar type players was going to help him reach as close as he can to his ceiling. Not saying he couldn’t reach it elsewhere with different environments, but we certainly felt we had a good nurturing developmental environment for a player with his background."
Part of that environment is Abreu, who was guiding Robert around Guaranteed Rate Field before Saturday's introduction, talking with him in the dugout and on the field.
Hahn said that Abreu relishes a mentoring role and that players like Abreu and Moncada have taken the initiative to welcome Robert into the organization.
"A lot of it comes from the players themselves. We don't need to hand them a phone and make them Facetime with each other. They've already been a little proactive on their own, and I suspect that will continue over the coming years," Hahn said. "Jose, as I'm sure he'll tell you directly, takes a great deal of pride in playing that mentor type role in the organization. He's certainly done it with Yoan ever since we acquired him and has already begun doing it moving forward with Luis. And I suspect Moncada will follow suit as well.
"So it perpetuates itself, it's something we can facilitate with our coaches, any of our culturalization people as the process unfolds. Obviously we have a strong history in this regard and have had some success doing it."
Whether Robert will have a career more similar to Minoso, Ramirez, Abreu, Moncada or even the heretofore unmentioned Dayan Viciedo remains to be seen. But one advantage he does have in his development is an organization with a tradition and environment to help him succeed.
No wonder he felt comfortable.
The White Sox will be without infielder Tyler Saladino for at least 10 days.
Saladino was placed on the 10-day disabled list ahead of Saturday's doubleheader with what the team called back spasms, though Saladino explained it's a nerve issue that will keep him on the shelf.
Saladino left Friday night's game, and he said he was experiencing soreness Saturday.
"It’s like a sciatic nerve related stuff. Kind of ruled the back out of it," Saladino said. "Going to try to find a way to get it to calm down."
Saladino said he's been dealing with minor issues over the past week but that it really flared up when he stepped on first base Friday night.
He explained that this is the first time he's ever dealt with a nerve issue like this and that he doesn't have much of an idea what to expect.
“Brand new. Nerve thing, never had anything like it before. It’s all brand new," Saladino said. "Just going to kind of take it, start with some treatment, see how it goes. Have no idea what’s going on.
“This right here kind of made me play a little bit cautious. You don’t really think about it when you’re out there playing. You’ve got enough adrenaline to take over. But feeling a little bit of a nerve thing kind of sat me back. It’s just in the back of your head. You don’t really know what’s going on. You feel a little bit of stuff that’s going on that’s brand new, doesn’t feel right."
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In a corresponding roster move, the White Sox brought outfielder Adam Engel up from Triple-A Charlotte.
Engel had a slow start to the season in his first handful of games, but he's been swinging a pretty hot bat of late. In his last 30 games, he's hitting .286 with a .370 on-base percentage and eight home runs.
"Just made an adjustment with my hands, just kind of picked them up a little bit," Engel said about what changed. "I have been kind of getting them behind me, kind of putting me in a tough position to hit. I just picked them up and I feel like I’m in a better position."
White Sox manager Rick Renteria had plenty of praise for the newest addition to his roster.
“Tremendously gifted outfielder, runs real well. Was starting to put together a pretty good run at the Triple-A level. Hit his seventh or eight home run last night," Renteria said before Saturday's first game. "Has been playing very well, continues to develop. You’ll probably see him here soon in the outfield, get a game. Talking to (bench coach Joe McEwing) and the staff, we’ve talked about trying to get guys in as quickly as possible so they get their feet underneath them. He’s been doing very, very well. He’s a very gifted outfielder with potentially the ability to hold his own at the plate.”