White Sox’ Luis Robert Jr., one of baseball’s best so far in 2023, gets day off

“If you focus on Luis and his day, you realize these days are needed,” manager Pedro Grifol said.

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Luis Robert makes a sliding catch against the Astros at Minute Maid Park on April 1.

Luis Robert of the White Sox catches a fly ball in the fourth inning against the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park on April 1.

Tim Warner/Getty Images

PITTSBURGH — The White Sox could have used center fielder Luis Robert Jr., whose 0.9 wins above replacement through nine games ranked him among the top four players in the majors, in the lineup in their 1-0 loss Sunday to the Pirates.

But Robert and his .366/.366/.732 hitting line were given a rest. It was the first day off of the season for Robert, and in a day game after a night game, it seemed like a good spot for a team that entered play Sunday leading the American League in batting average, extra-base hits, total bases and doubles and was third in runs per game.

‘‘If you focus on Luis and his day, you realize these days are needed,’’ manager Pedro Grifol said before the game. ‘‘He prepares for a game probably better than anybody I’ve ever seen. He’s talented, but his preparation pregame is second to none.’’

Grifol also noted the amount of running Robert already has done on the bases and in the outfield. He has made several running catches, at least two of the spectacular variety.

The Sox need to keep Robert healthy, and if it takes giving him a day off every 10th day, they’ll do it. He was limited to 98 games last season and to 68 in 2021.

‘‘His work capacity is really high,’’Grifol said. ‘‘He’s ready for this. We’re nine games into the season, and everybody’s going to feel good at this point. We’re preparing for 162, so at some point he’s going to need one of these. And today was a good day.’’

Rookie Oscar Colas shifted from right field to center, with Romy Gonzalez taking Colas’ normal spot in right.

Grandal’s throwing

Stolen bases are up across the majors, casting a light on catcher Yasmani Grandal’s throwing. But Grifol said Sox pitchers need to be better at holding runners.

Grandal, who replaced Seby Zavala behind the plate after pinch-hitting and getting called out on strikes in the seventh inning Sunday, has made most of his throws to second from his knees. He has thrown out two of 11 potential base-stealers.

‘‘He throws good off his knees,’’ said Grifol, who was a catcher in the minor leagues. ‘‘I know his throwing-out percentage is not good, but we need to do a better job with our times to the plate. It’s not so much throwing out guys, it’s eliminating attempts. If we throw them out, great. I want to get to a point where they’re not even attempting to run on us.’’

The Pirates stole three bases Saturday on right-hander Mike Clevinger.

‘‘We’ve spoken to Clevinger about it,’’ Grifol said. ‘‘It’s not something we’re brushing under the rug. We’re addressing it and working on it.’’

Grandal’s strengths through his career have been his offense and his pitch-framing, but Grifol said he’s ‘‘doing a really good job behind the plate blocking and throwing. We have to be quicker to the plate.’’

This and that

The Sox improved to 13-for-13 on stolen-base attempts, with Gonzalez getting his first. It’s their most consecutive steals to start a season since at least 1920, when caught-stealing data first was recorded.

• After designating right-hander Jose Ruiz for assignment Friday, the Sox were able to work out a trade with the Diamondbacks for cash considerations.

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