TAK­ING IT OUT ON THEM

Sox ac­quired Jimenez — and Cease — from Cubs, and slug­ger seems to en­joy pun­ish­ing North Siders

Chicago Sun-Times - - SPORTS - DARYL VAN SCHOUWEN dvan­schouwen@sun­times.com | @CST_­sox­van JONATHAN DANIEL/GETTY IM­AGES

There’s some­thing about hit­ting against the Cubs that brings out the best in Eloy Jimenez.

Per­haps it’s sim­ply be­cause he’s emerg­ing as a top-flight power hit­ter and has al­ways been a big tal­ent. Chances are, the 6-4, 235-pound left fielder is go­ing to put a hurt on any num­ber of teams he faces.

Or maybe it’s be­cause of the added mojo the 23-year-old has for the team that traded him away. Jimenez’s feel­ings were hurt when White Sox gen­eral man­ager Rick Hahn pulled off one of his big-three deals that set the Sox’ re­build in mo­tion, and this jilted one car­ries a bit of a grudge in a bro­ken re­la­tion­ship.

“It’s al­ways go­ing to be like that; it’s al­ways, I want to be good against them,” said Jimenez, who pounded a grand slam over the cen­ter-field wall against Cubs righthande­r Yu Darvish in an ex­hi­bi­tion win Mon­day.

“That’s pretty nor­mal.”

There’s noth­ing nor­mal about this short­ened sea­son, and it would be good for Jimenez to have some­thing in the tank for the Cubs with six games against them mak­ing up 10% of their sched­ule. The sea­son con­cludes with three games against the Cubs at Guar­an­teed Rate Field.

The Sox, a team seem­ingly on the rise, also pried away Dy­lan Cease, the Cubs’ top pitch­ing prospect at the time, in the trade, and he will be their No. 3 or 4 starter. He could get two starts against the Cubs, who are thin on young pitch­ing and would cer­tainly like to have him back.

“That would be cool,” he said. “With them also be­ing a tal­ented team and a team that’s go­ing to be com­pet­ing, that will be a lot of fun. It’s some­thing I look for­ward to.” It’s not that the Cubs didn’t care for Cease or Jimenez — al­though it’s known they had reser­va­tions about Jimenez’s defense in a Na­tional League that wasn’t us­ing the des­ig­nated hit­ter at the time — they just liked the idea of ac­quir­ing a qual­ity left­handed starter with valu­able long-term con­tract con­trol in Jose Quin­tana. Quin­tana has been de­pend­able for the Cubs with ERAs of 3.74 in 14 starts after the deal was made in 2017, 4.03 in 32 starts in 2018 and 4.68 also in 32 starts in 2019, but see­ing Jimenez be­gin to blos­som into a star and Cease pitch­ing to rave re­views in sum­mer camp, the deal for the Sox looks like — John Rooney voice here — “a White Sox win­ner.”

Quin­tana is side­lined now after he cut his thumb in a kitchen ac­ci­dent the day be­fore he was sup­posed to leave his Mi­ami home for sum­mer camp.

If his per­for­mances in spring train­ing, ex­hi­bi­tions and real games are any in­di­ca­tion, Jimenez seem­ingly wants to in­flict more pain on the North Side. In nine games (four reg­u­lar-sea­son games), he is bat­ting .292 with four homers, 10 RBI and six runs against the Cubs.

As a mi­nor-league prospect, he hit a go-ahead homer in the eighth in­ning of a spring-train­ing game at Sloan Park in 2018. In a game that mat­tered, he hit a bro­ken-bat homer in the ninth in­ning of a 3-1 Sox vic­tory at Wrigley Field on June 18 last sea­son. And then the slam.

“Yeah, I feel good, I feel re­ally nice,” Jimenez said Wed­nes­day be­fore the Sox played the Brew­ers in their fi­nal ex­hi­bi­tion tuneup be­fore the sea­son opener Fri­day. “These three weeks [of camp] . . . the lineup has looked good. I feel good, and we’re ready to roll.”

Jimenez fin­ished strong in Septem­ber and led Amer­i­can League rook­ies in homers (31), RBI (79) and to­tal bases (240) in 2019. Hav­ing one full sea­son un­der his belt will help im­mensely in 2020, Jimenez said.

“I learned as much as I could last year,” he said.

As for the team, the Sox are ready to get go­ing Fri­day.

“This year is com­pletely dif­fer­ent,” Jimenez said. “Our lineup is bet­ter, our pitch­ing staff is bet­ter. We can com­pete more than last year.”

Eloy Jimenez smacks a dou­ble in the fourth in­ning Wed­nes­day in the ex­hi­bi­tion game against the Brew­ers.

GETTY IM­AGES

Dy­lan Cease

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