Eloy Jiménez determined to contribute to the defense

CHICAGO – Eloy Jiménez has never wanted to permanently serve as designated hitter for the White Sox.

He made that clear during a SoxFest a few years ago and has held that position ever since. The White Sox position for the 24-year-old has basically been for him to “prove” he can handle left field full time.

And since Jiménez came back from the disabled list after recovering from a left pectoral tear he sustained while trying unsuccessfully to steal a home run in a preseason game, he’s done basically that – save for a blink or two.

“Basically, well from what is being talked about through the media, he has been told that at some point he will end up being a full-time designated hitter, but he has said that he is not going to let that happen,” he told MLB.com White Sox first base coach Daryl Boston, who works with outfielders. “It is moving better. It has been well. I don’t worry as much as in the past when he’s on the field. “

Jiménez won an American League Silver Bat in 2020 and has a lifetime offensive line of .271 / .317 / .510 in 953 plate appearances, with 55 home runs, 42 doubles and 157 RBIs. Jiménez is one of those sluggers who can carry a team when it turns on at the plate, or at least change a game in one turn. That is why it is so important to give him as many turns as possible during the course of each match.

That option was not always on the table for the White Sox, as Jiménez had to be retired for a defensive replacement on many occasions. There was a period of frustration and depression for Jiménez after he suffered the injury that, according to the first diagnosis, would leave him out for between five and six months. But Jiménez worked hard early on in rehab, putting himself in the best shape of his career, to cite a classic training cliché, and focused on his defense during the long absence.

His OAAs (Outs Above Average) during his little play in 2021 are +1, compared to -4 last year and -11 in 2019, according to Statcast. His DRS (Defensive Runs Saved) is +2, vs. -4 last year and -10 in 2019. Rick Renteria, who managed the White Sox until last season, believed Jiménez had the potential to one day win a Gold Glove. But at least so far, he has certainly improved.

“Look, we set him a couple of goals during rehab, beyond just recovering,” Chicago general manager Rick Hahn told MLB.com. “He wants to be out there when the last out is made. And we told him very clearly that, if you want to do that, you are going to have to work on your defense and, in that same vein, on your body. That will help you be a better player defending.

“He deserves all the credit. He was able to position himself not only to be back at the Major League level despite such a catastrophic injury, but he also came back in better shape, a player who has clearly put the job in defensively and continues to focus on that element of his career. play”.

Manager Tony La Russa and the club’s coaching staff often place Jiménez deep into left field to avoid the possibility of him picking up too much speed in a potential wall collision, something that had plagued the Dominican in the past. Boston also indicated that Jiménez is catching higher during batting practice, following the lead of prominent patrolmen like Adam Engel and Billy Hamilton.

“I hit him all day, every day, but the best way to improve is to do it during practice,” Boston said. “You challenge yourself. You move a little more, you see which balls you can reach and which ones you can’t. It becomes easier for you in the game. He has been able to do that. I have no problem with having Eloy playing defense. We’re going to need him to play something in left field in the playoffs. He’s playing with much more confidence than we saw when he first came here. “

“He’s moving very well,” La Russa continued. “I saw him a little bit in practice before the injury and I was impressed with how well he moved for someone so great. He has good hands and a strong arm ”.