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Chicago White Sox place All-Star Luis Robert Jr. on IL with Grade 2 right hip flexor strain: ‘It’s very frustrating’

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Luis Robert Jr. ripped a Will Smith slider to the left-field corner, and the Chicago White Sox center fielder rounded first on his way to second for a ninth-inning double.

That’s when he started hopping.

Robert made it to second but exited Friday’s game against the Kansas City Royals with a Grade 2 right hip flexor strain. The Sox placed the All-Star on the 10-day injured list Saturday.

“It was probably when I tried to run harder when I hit first base, that was when I felt, I think it was probably just the effort to try to run harder,” Robert said through an interpreter Saturday afternoon at Kauffman Stadium.

Robert missed a portion of the 2021 season after suffering a Grade 3 strain (complete tear) of the right hip flexor.

“I’m not feeling as bad as I was feeling in 2021,” Robert said. “Last night, I couldn’t sleep just thinking about that.

“Pretty similar to what happened, to what I felt in 2021, but not quite the same. I think this time it’s in the same area but a different spot.”

In 2021, Robert suffered the injury in a May 2 game against Cleveland and returned on Aug. 9. No timeline has been established for this injury.

“There’s really no telling,” manager Pedro Grifol said Saturday. “It’s not as bad as it was last time, that’s really good.

“It will be longer than 10 days. I just don’t know how long it’s going to be. And I don’t think anybody knows.”

Robert’s injury was the second of the game for the Sox in Friday’s 2-1 loss. Reliever John Brebbia left in the sixth inning with right calf soreness after fielding a grounder near the mound and throwing out Salvador Perez at the plate.

Friday was a day filled with injury news for the Sox, who placed designated hitter Eloy Jiménez on the 10-day injured list with a left adductor strain. That move is retroactive to Tuesday.

“That’s the hardest part,” Robert said. “As I told you guys in spring training, that’s what has been a challenge for us: trying to stay healthy. For whatever reason, we can’t play together — the full lineup — the whole time.

Jiménez is the No. 4 hitter in the lineup. And now the Sox will be without their No. 3 hitter, Robert.

“You never want to see someone go down, you don’t want to see injuries. And for one of the best players in baseball, you see that, it gets you down,” second baseman Nicky Lopez said of the Robert injury Friday.

“That guy is so exciting to watch. You just hate to see it.”

Dominic Fletcher started in center field Saturday against the Royals. Kevin Pillar, who started in right, could be another option.

“He’s one of the best players in the game,” Fletcher said of Robert. “I think just kind of collectively as a team, everyone has to step up and pick up some of that slack.”

Fletcher was involved in an odd play in Saturday’s 3-0 loss as he tried to make a leaping catch on a flyball by MJ Melendez in the seventh inning. The ball hit the wall, deflected off his glove and went over the fence for a two-run homer that gave the Royals a 2-0 lead.

“Going back, kind of felt the wall coming, jumped up, felt it in my glove but wasn’t quite sure if it hit the wall first, hit my glove first so just kind of make a play,” Fletcher said after the game. “I wasn’t sure what happened.”

Grifol pointed at himself afterward, saying he should have requested a review.

“You go out there and just ask them to review it,” Grifol said. “It’s a crew-chief review, so I eat that, I wear that.”

Chris Flexen pitched well in the defeat, allowing three runs on six hits in 6 1/3 innings.

The Sox had three hits and were blanked for the third time while falling to 1-7 for the first time since 1995.

The Sox also played without Brebbia, who missed time during spring training with a right calf strain.

“He’s better today,” Grifol said before the game. “It wasn’t as bad as it was in the spring. We’re still evaluating that one. We don’t have to make that decision for a day or two.”

Coming off an All-Star and Silver Slugger Award-winning season, Robert is 6-for-28 (.214) with two home runs and four RBIs in seven games.

Robert played in a career-high 145 games last season after injuries limited him to 98 in 2022 and 68 in 2021.

“That’s the worst feeling,” Robert said. “You prepare yourself to be in good condition, good shape to play every day and you’re doing everything right. Then when something like this happens, it’s frustrating.

“You start second guessing why, try to find an explanation why if you’re doing everything you’re supposed to do to stay healthy and you can’t, it’s very frustrating. That’s the worst part. Mentally, it’s tough.”

The Sox are in a hole with seven losses in their first eight games. And now critical injuries are added to the list.

“We’re not going to feel sorry for ourselves,” Grifol said. “We’ve got 26 major-leaguers right here ready to go. We’ve got to go out there, prepare and compete. That’s what we have to do.

“We can’t spend one minute thinking about, ‘We lost Robert, we lost Eloy,’ and feeling sorry for ourselves. There’s another club over there on the other side trying to kick our ass, we’ve got to rise up to the occasion, we’ve got to perform. That’s it.”

In Saturday’s corresponding move, the Sox recalled infielder Lenyn Sosa from Triple-A Charlotte. Sosa, 24, is 8-for-24 (.333) with two doubles, one home run and three RBIs with the Knights.

Before Saturday’s game, the Sox traded pitcher Alex Speas to the Oakland Athletics in exchange for cash considerations. Speas was designated for assignment by the Sox on Friday to make room for outfielder Robbie Grossman on the 40-man roster.