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Chicago White Sox

Counting down the days: White Sox's Jimenez expects late April call-up

Chicago White Sox's Eloy Jimenez is introduced to fans during the baseball team's convention Friday, Jan. 25, 2019, in Chicago. (AP Photo/David Banks)
Chicago White Sox's Eloy Jimenez is introduced to fans during the baseball team's convention Friday, Jan. 25, 2019, in Chicago. (AP Photo/David Banks)

Maybe he’s rusty.

Hopefully, he’s healthy.

Either way, Eloy Jimenez is having a rough go in spring training.

“It’s going kind of a little bit tough with my timing, but I know it’s there,” Jimenez told reporters Sunday at Camelback Ranch. “I feel a little impatient, just a little bit anxious.”

The White Sox’s best young talent and one of the top prospects in baseball, Jimenez is batting only .130 (3 for 22) with eight strikeouts in the Cactus League.

The Sox’s left fielder of the future hit a two-run homer against the San Diego Padres on Tuesday, but that’s about the only spring highlight.

Toward the end of last season, Jimenez penned a story for The Players’ Tribune under the headline: “I’m ready.”

It was a not-so-subtle attempt to push his way onto the Sox’s roster, but his season concluded at the end of August.

Even if he was crushing the ball this spring, Jimenez is going to open the upcoming season at Triple-A Charlotte. If the Sox wait until late April to call up the 22-year-old outfielder, they’ll get an extra year of service time before Jimenez is eligible for free agency.

Disappointed last season, Jimenez reported to training camp this spring as upbeat as ever.

“That was last year,” he said. “I’m ready. I always say I’m ready.”

Based on his minor league production – Jimenez slashed .337/.384/.577 with 22 home runs and 75 RBIs in 108 games with Charlotte and Double-A Birmingham last season – the slow spring start is not a concern.

That’s where the rust factor comes in.

Outside of 29 at-bats with Gigantes del Cibao in Dominican Republic Winter League baseball, Jimenez was off for six months before playing in the Cactus League.

“Obviously, a very talented young man who’s got a lot of future big league potential,” Sox manager Rick Renteria said. “I’m sure at some point in time we’ll see him at the major league level.”

Until Jimenez is called up, the Sox can play Nicky Delmonico and Daniel Palka in left field.

Delmonico has had trouble staying healthy after joining the Sox in 2017 and slashing .262/.373/.482 with nine home runs and 23 RBIs in 43 games.

Last May, he broke his right hand after being hit by a pitch and was out two months. Delmonico hit .215/.296/.373 with eight homers and 25 RBIs in 88 games.

Last Thursday, Delmonico crashed into the fence trying to make a catch against the Milwaukee Brewers and was placed in the concussion protocol.

Palka might be the better option in left field.

Back playing for the Sox after missing more than two weeks with a hamstring injury, Palka is an impressive power hitter.

After being claimed off waivers from the Minnesota Twins before last season, he tied for first among American League rookies with 27 home runs and finished third with 67 RBIs.
Over the winter, Palka worked hard on his defensive game.

“Defense is one of those things where you have to put in the work,” Palka said. “Hitting is fun, but defense is work. It’s the first year I did that, so I’m pretty confident.”

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