The latest outfield misadventure for the Chicago White Sox’ Eloy Jiménez could cost him most of the 2021 season at least.
Jiménez was injured Wednesday in a Cactus League game against the Athletics when he raced to the left field wall and leaped in an attempt to rob Oakland’s Sean Murphy of a home run. As the ball sailed well past Jiménez into a bullpen area, he hooked his left arm over the wall and dangled there for a moment. Clearly in major discomfort, the 24-year-old Dominican native was attended to by medical personnel before leaving the field.
There is a chance that Jiménez could return before the season ends, but a White Sox team with World Series aspirations will have to get there without an expected fixture in the middle of its order. Following some mishaps over the past two seasons, Wednesday’s incident revived talk that the young slugger might be best served in the role of designated hitter.
The White Sox announcing team was quick to point out Wednesday that perhaps it wasn’t the time or place for Jiménez to go for an unlikely defensive play.
“I mean, look — he did miss it, but the reality of it is that this is spring training,” said analyst Steve Stone, a former MLB pitcher. “This doesn’t really matter very much.”
“You have to learn to protect yourself,” Stone said Thursday on a Chicago sports-radio station. “You wonder what was going through his mind at the time. To be on the field, to be great, you have to be durable. Eloy has not proven that he’s durable at all and a lot of the injuries have not been of the particularly smart areas.”
Even Hahn suggested that Jiménez could have made a more prudent choice.
“Was it the right decision to go for that ball, especially when put in the context of spring training? Perhaps not,” Hahn said. “But fundamentally you like the fact he was trying to make a play.
The centerpiece of a 2017 trade that sent veteran pitcher José Quintana across town to the Cubs, Jiménez reached the majors in 2019 and showed right away that he’d brought his big bat with him. He hit 31 home runs in 122 games that year, then followed up with 14 homers and 41 RBI in 2020′s pandemic-shortened season.
Jiménez also showed that he could do nearly as much damage in the outfield as he could at the plate. He missed 21 games in 2019 with an ankle sprain after crashing awkwardly into a wall while chasing a home run ball that was well out of reach. Later that season an ulnar nerve contusion cost him 11 games when he collided with teammate Charlie Tilson at the warning track in Kansas City. Another rough encounter with a wall last year put him on the shelf for two games, a meaningful absence during a 60-game season.
When he hasn’t been hitting walls or fellow outfielders, as he did again earlier this month, Jiménez has also developed something of a habit of sprawling into the netting along the third-base side of ballparks.
“I’ve had two fights with the wall, and the wall beat me twice,” Jiménez, known for a jovial nature, joked when he return to the White Sox’ lineup last year. “Wall 2, Eloy 0.”
At this point, no one is laughing. Hahn described the latest injury Thursday as “a bit of a shock to the system.”
“It’s going to be very hard for him not to be around us for the next several months,” Hahn said of Jiménez.
“Our biggest concern is Eloy,” added White Sox Manager Tony La Russa, who held a team meeting Thursday to go over how to proceed in Jiménez’s absence. “He’s the guy that’s hurt, he’s the guy that’s got to go through the rehab. Here’s this great player who’s not going to be able to show his greatness for the season. Hopefully we get him toward the end.”