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Chicago White Sox CF Luis Robert Jr. aims for more success after All-Star season: ‘He wants to be great’

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Chicago White Sox center fielder Luis Robert Jr. had a bat in his hand as he chatted with teammates Oscar Colás and Eloy Jiménez near the Camelback Ranch batting cages Monday morning.

Robert put on a show in the back fields later in the day, hitting the ball hard to all parts of the field.

The 26-year-old was locked in during the first full squad workout of the spring as he looks to build upon last season.

What a 2023 it was for Robert, who set career highs in several offensive categories while earning All-Star and Silver Slugger Award honors.

“My biggest takeaway was I was able to stay healthy and play the amount of games I played,” Robert said through an interpreter Monday. “I played a lot of games (a career-best 145) and that was something that I wanted to do.”

Robert is confident there is another level.

“I can improve on little things that I didn’t do as well as I wanted,” he said. “I think I can improve on those little things, and if I do, it’s going to be a way better season.”

Photos: Inside White Sox spring training

Robert slashed .264/.315/.542 with 36 doubles, 38 home runs, 80 RBIs, 90 runs, 20 stolen bases and an .857 OPS. The doubles, home runs, RBIs, runs and stolen base totals are career-bests.

He tied for second in the American League in extra-base hits (75), third in home runs and slugging percentage, fifth in OPS (.857), seventh in total bases (296) and OPS+ (103.1) and tied for ninth in doubles.

Manager Pedro Grifol noticed the work Robert put in last spring and how it paid off.

“I’ve had a few players in my career that I would never even dream of setting goals for just because you just don’t know what their cap is,” Grifol said. “I’m always hesitant to say, ‘OK, this is the goal,’ and kind of limit him to that when he’s got a heck of a lot more. And he’s one of them.

“He hit 38 homers last year. He had a great year. The most important part is that he wants to be great. Which puts him in a position to have great offseasons. You see him run around the bases today, pretty, pretty electric. And this is one of the guys that last year I had to kind of slow down a little bit in the spring and just say take it easy, but now that I know him, that’s his DNA and that’s how he likes to go about it and that’s what gets him ready for the season.”

Robert became the first player in franchise history to record 35-plus doubles, 35-plus home runs, 80-plus RBIs, 90-plus runs and 20-plus stolen bases in a single season.

MLB Network recently ranked him the No. 27 player in the majors in the network’s “Top 100 players right now” list.

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Robert smiled when asked about all the positive recognition.

“That has been one of my goals ever since I came here and signed with this organization — just be the best player that I can be,” he said. “Unfortunately, the past season injuries and all this stuff kind of prevented me from being that kind of player. Last year was a step forward. That’s what I work for every day, to be the best player I can be.”

Robert missed the final six games of 2023 after suffering a mild left knee MCL sprain on Sept. 24 in Boston. After one month of recovery, he returned to activities in preparation for 2024.

Robert was in the news this offseason after reports he changed his representation to Boras Corp.

“You are always thinking about your future,” Robert said. “But I still have four more years with this organization and I don’t think way ahead of that. I like to think of the present, today, because that’s what I can control.

“You can’t have a good future if you don’t have a good present and that’s why I don’t want to think too far away.”

In the present, Robert would like to increase his batting average and cut down his strikeouts while maintaining the power numbers.

“Last year, I struggled a bit with strikeouts (a team-high 172) but I think that’s something that I can control the strikeouts, I can prevent,” he said. “If I do, then the average is going to be there as well as the home runs.”