Luis Robert Jr. had been wearing a sliding mitt on his left hand for protection when he was on base.
The Chicago White Sox center fielder attempted to steal third base in the third inning on Aug. 9 against the New York Yankees. The throw beat him to the bag, but Robert said that’s when his instincts took over. He did a swim move with his left hand, avoided the tag and sneaked his right hand in safely.
Unfortunately for Robert, he jammed his right pinkie finger in the process of the play and left the game in the fourth inning.
Robert missed the weekend series against the Milwaukee Brewers with a sprained right pinkie finger, with the exception of pinch running on Friday. He was back in the starting lineup Tuesday as the Sox faced the Cubs in the first game of the City Series at Wrigley Field.
And he planned to wear sliding mitts on both hands.
Robert didn’t see any changes with wearing the two mitts, with one exception, joking he’d have to figure out how to take off his helmet.
Robert said through an interpreter before Tuesday’s game that he’s “not 100%, but I think I can play.”
“My goal this year is to play as many games as I can,” Robert said. “I won’t let any minor issues or soreness or stuff keep me out of the field. I’m going to do everything in my power to play every day and have a strong finish to the season.
“That’s my goal, to try to be able to finish this season strong and if I have to get extra treatment before the game to be able to play, I’ll do it because that’s my goal.”
He said his grip on the bat “feels good.”
“I think with the heat of the game, everything’s going to go well,” Robert said. “I don’t think I’m going to have any problems.”
He showed no ill-effect Tuesday, hitting a go-ahead solo homer in the seventh inning as the Sox beat the Cubs 5-3.
Robert went 2-for-5. He tested out the two mitts after reaching base on a single in the first.
He crushed a Julian Merryweather slider in the seventh for the 422-foot home run to give the Sox a 4-3 lead. It was his 32nd of the season, which ranks second in the American League.
Manager Pedro Grifol said before the game Robert had been “craving to get back in.”
“It was just the right thing to do not to push this thing (during the weekend) and all of a sudden turn it into a two-week stint as opposed to three, four days,” Grifol said. “He’s going to go out there, he’s going to feel it a little bit, he won’t be 100%. But I’m in agreement with him, I think the adrenaline, playing here, the pain will subside a little bit. But he’s still going to have some pain.”
Robert enters Wednesday slashing .273/.326/.568 with 30 doubles, 32 home runs and 65 RBIs.
He has also used his legs for 16 stolen bases.
“I’ve talked to him all year about stealing bases,” Grifol said. “And I said, ‘Look, bases that don’t mean that much to us, I want you to stay away from. Bases that are going to help us win games, those are the ones I want you to steal.’ Will that eliminate probably 15 to 20 a year? Maybe. But I also want to keep him healthy. A lot of his injuries have been diving headfirst. So he’ll wear the double mitt.”
Grifol added: “I’ve never been one to try to limit or talk about not playing the game aggressively. That’s when guys get hurt. We’ve had this discussion for years and years whether guys should dive in headfirst, feet first. You know what? Just go play the game. Be careful, but go play the game and don’t try to slow down, because that’s when you’re really going to get hurt.”
Robert tried to play through a wrist injury late last season, at times essentially swinging with one hand. Grifol doesn’t anticipate any such issues with the pinkie.
“I don’t think (there will be an effect) in the field,” Grifol said. “There’s been a little bit of that hitting. I don’t think it’s going to be like last year, though. I remember from the other side (as the Kansas City Royals bench coach) looking at it, it looked like he was in some pain, especially on the follow-through where he just would release the bottom hand and just finish with the top hand.
“I don’t think that’s where we’re at.”
Tim Anderson scratched with neck stiffness
The Sox made a lineup change less than an hour before the first pitch on Tuesday, as shortstop Tim Anderson was scratched with neck stiffness. Elvis Andrus moved from second base to shortstop and Zach Remillard played second.