Luis Robert Jr. exits White Sox’ victory over Yankees with sprained finger

“Every player that has the chance to go out there every day and play has the chance to lead by example,” Robert said.

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Luis Robert Jr. of the White Sox reacts after hitting a double in Atlanta on July 15, 2023 in Atlanta. (Getty Images)

Luis Robert Jr. of the Chicago White Sox reacts after hitting a double in Atlanta on July 15, 2023 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

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Rising above the messy rubble of a lost, disappointing season is Luis Robert Jr.

Above center-field walls to steal home runs with his glove, above the rest of a White Sox season that crashed and burned weeks ago.

Sporadically slowed by injuries during his young career, Robert, 26, has played in a team-high 112 of the Sox’ 116 games and is batting .271/.325/.563 with 31 home runs, 30 doubles and an .888 OPS. He stole his 15th and 16th bases in his 17th and 18th attempts in the third inning of the Sox’ 9-2 victory against the Yankees on Wednesday at Guaranteed Rate Field.

But the steal of third base came at a cost.

Robert sprained the pinkie finger on his right hand on a headfirst slide and left the game, a grim reminder that the injury monster never strays too far away. He is day-to-day, and any number of days lost for the Sox’ most exciting player is just more drainage from a season that’s already down the drain. Manager Pedro Grifol said it was not serious.

“He should be in the lineup Friday [against the Brewers after Thursday’s day off],” Grifol said. “If not, he should be in there Saturday.”

Blossoming as an All-Star in his fourth season, Robert has been the one player on the Sox most worth watching. He ranks second in the American League in homers, slugging percentage and extra-base hits (62) and was fourth in OPS before Wednesday.

The only Sox player to have at least 30 homers, 30 doubles and 20 stolen bases in one season is outfielder Magglio Ordonez, who had 31, 40 and 25 in 2001.

“I didn’t know that,” Robert said Tuesday. “But, yeah, I would like to steal 20. But actually the real goal, the real number is 30. We’ll see if I’m able to do it.”

Robert’s fielding rounds out his considerable skill set. A Gold Glove winner as a rookie in 2020, he ranks fifth in overall fielding among major-league center fielders and second in outs above average. In the first inning Wednesday, he threw out Yankees leadoff man Jake Bauers trying to go from first to third on a single.

“He’s got everything,” left fielder Andrew Benintendi, a former Gold Glove winner, said.

The Sox have a leadership shortage in the clubhouse, so there’s a place for Robert, cool, calm and under-the-radar funny, to take ownership. His work ethic — “He’s always in a sweat,” Benintendi said — and desire to play every day rate as qualifications. His goal is to play 150 games.

Whether the sprained pinkie is a hindrance remains to be seen.

“Every athlete, every player who can go play every day has the chance to lead by example,” Robert said Tuesday through translator Billy Russo. “You need to stay healthy and be on the field.”

Russo often must coax Robert out of his reluctance to talk to the media, a chore that comes with the territory of being a leader. In Anaheim, California, in June, Robert hid in his locker, getting laughs from teammates and a female Japanese reporter waiting on him. It was part Robert entertaining teammates, part demonstration of his unwillingness to do a lot of interviews.

“If you’d asked everyone in that clubhouse who’s the funniest guy in the clubhouse, the vast majority of them would say Luis Robert,” general manager Rick Hahn said recently.

Robert will get MVP and Gold Glove votes if he plays enough games. For Robert, the recent emphasis on changing the culture in the clubhouse is basic.

“Win. That’s our goal,” he said. “Try to win as many games as we can and try to finish the season strong and find something in these two months we can carry over for next season.”

The Sox picked up their fourth victory in five games — after a 2-11 stretch — and a series win.

Mike Clevinger (5-5) pitched six innings of one-run, three-hit ball, lowering his ERA to 3.55.

Oscar Colas hit a two-run homer, and Elvis Andrus doubled in three runs.

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