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Louis Robert Jr joins the Derby 2023 Home Run

Louis Robert Jr joins the Derby 2023 Home Run
Louis Robert Jr joins the Derby 2023 Home Run

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12:31 a.m. UTC

CHICAGO — White Sox center fielder Louis Robert Jr. made it to the T-Mobile Home Run Derby thanks to a little encouragement from his friends.

Robert wasn’t originally inclined to be a part of the competition — which is scheduled for Monday at 7 p.m. PT at T-Mobile Park and will be broadcast on ESPN. The 25-year-old has stated on several occasions that he didn’t think his game as a first batsman and second pacer would play well. But Randy Arrozarena and Adolis García, his Cuban compatriots and fellow Derby participants, talked Robert into joining in the fun.

“We all said, ‘Let’s do it,'” Robert said, via translator Billy Russo, after announcing the derby entry on his Instagram page on Wednesday.

Pete Alonso, Mets (who won in 2019 and 21)
Randy Arosarina, Ray
Mookie Betts, Dodgers
Adulis Garcia, Rangers
Vladimir Guerrero Jr. Blue Jays
Louis Robert Jr., White Sox
Julio Rodriguez, Mariners
Adley Rochman, Orioles

Robert ranks second in the American League and tied for third in MLB with 25 home runs, trailing only Shohei Ohtani in the AL.

The White Sox slugger fired 11 long balls in June. Then he began to set the tone for next week by blasting three home runs in the sixth inning off Chris Bassett during a 4-3 loss to the Blue Jays on Tuesday at Guaranteed Rate Field.

“What he’s doing for this team offensively and defensively, it’s amazing,” said White Sox outfielder Lucas Giolito. “I’m excited to watch him at the All-Star Game, and excited to still have him behind me hitting all of those.”

It was during the offseason when Oscar Colas, the White Sox’ second baseman for every MLB pipeline as well as a close friend and workout buddy of Robert’s in Florida, saw that success coming for the five-tool talent.

“I knew he was going to have a very good season,” Colas said via Russo. “I knew he was going to make it. I even said to him, ‘Brother, you’re going to have a very good season. You’re going to hit 30-plus homers.'”

White Sox general manager Rick Hahn added, “When we originally signed him, he envisioned him as a 30-30 guy when he became the player who hit [his projected] tools. … I will say right now, he’s clearly an All-Star and is on his way to becoming one of the superstars in this game.”

Todd Frazier was the last White Sox player to pitch in the Derby, losing in the Finals to Giancarlo Stanton at Petco Park in 2016. Robert is hoping to do better than his first Home Run Derby as a young Cuban player, he explained with a laugh on Wednesday.

“We left our country with so many sacrifices trying to look for a better future. We managed to get that. Now to be on this platform, to be able to represent our country, it’s something that makes you happy and makes you proud. You carry your country wherever you go.”

Luis Sierra, a White Sox bullpen catcher from Columbia who also practices hitting, will be Robert’s derby pitcher and the duo will practice this weekend. Robert is excited to perform on the national stage, and is unconcerned about the impact the competition will have on his post-All-Star break.

“He may be a little excited about it, but I don’t think his swing is going to change or anything like that,” White Sox manager Pedro Grifoll said. “I’m not too worried about it, but he’s a big part of this team. We want him to come back healthy and ready to go in the second half.”

Robert is also committed to taking an intelligent approach to the derby.

“I wouldn’t try to pull every ball, because that can create some problems,” said Robert. “I’m just going to go out there and have fun. I hope I can do well and maybe win. But my main goal is to go out and have fun.”