WORK COMES FIRST FOR JIMENEZ
DECLINING A DAY OFF FOLLOWING WBC EXIT, HE’S SERIOUS ABOUT BEING MORE THAN A DH
GLENDALE, Ariz. — White Sox manager Pedro Grifol had planned to give outfielder Eloy Jimenez a day to gather himself and regroup after returning from the World Baseball Classic.
But two days after Puerto Rico eliminated his Dominican Republic team, there was Jimenez on Friday, ready to work with first-base coach Daryl Boston in the morning and batting fourth in the lineup as the designed hitter against a Cubs split squad in the afternoon.
“Because I want to get ready for the season,” explained Jimenez, who banged a double off the left-field wall against Cubs righthander Nick Neidert in his first of two plate appearances. “We are here. Why not?”
Getting back in there and bearing down falls in line with the mindset Jimenez brought when he arrived at camp four weeks ago — 25 pounds lighter and determined to stay healthy and do more than he did last season, when he hit .295/.358/.500 with 16 homers in 84 games. That wasn’t much more than half a season, and it came a year after he hit only 10 homers in 55 games.
After the Sox signed Andrew Benintendi in the offseason to play left field, Jimenez was penciled in at the top of the DH depth chart — a role he’s digging in against. Grifol is allowing him a chance to show what he can do, and Jimenez is bent on proving he belongs in right field on occasion, his defensive deficiencies notwithstanding.
“I give Eloy a lot of credit,” said Boston, who also works with the outfielders. “He’s saying all the right things, and he’s not just saying he doesn’t want to be a DH — he’s coming out every morning. Even mornings when I’m not expecting him, he’s searching me out to make sure we do early work. He showed up [Friday] and was like, ‘C’mon, let’s go. Let’s get some work in.’ ”
Boston said Jimenez is moving better this spring.
“Even his turns at first base, his intensity,” he said. “In the outfield, he’s always caught what he [has] to, but it seems like his first-step quickness has improved. He seems to be grasping right field.”
Jimenez was 5-for-11 with two doubles and two RBI in WBC pool play in Miami. Despite the quick ouster for the Dominican team — considered by many to be the WBC favorite going in — Jimenez said he’ll never forget the experience. Big, intense, “crazy” crowds and playing for his country made it impossible for him to compare it to his Sox postseason experiences, he said.
“I will never forget it, but [it was] not the result I wanted,” he said. “Now we’re here, getting ready for the season, and that’s the most important thing.”
The Sox are still without shortstop Tim Anderson, starting pitcher Lance Lynn and reliever Kendall Graveman (U.S.), reliever Jose Ruiz (Venezuela) and center fielder Luis Robert Jr. and third baseman Yoan Moncada (Cuba). As a whole, Sox players have performed well in the tournament. Anderson is 4-for-11 with a double, triple and four RBI; Lynn pitched five innings of one-run ball in his start; Graveman has pitched 1 ⅓ scoreless innings; Ruiz hasn’t allowed a run in two relief appearances; Moncada is 8-for-19 with a homer and five RBI, and Robert is 5-for-22 with a double and four RBI.
Jimenez is the first to return. “He had a great experience down there,” Grifol said. “He wants to get ready for the season. I was going to give him a day off, and he was like, ‘I want to play.’ So, all right, let’s play.” ✶