CHICAGO - Eloy Jiménez has no interest in the designated hitter job with the Chicago White Sox. Doesn’t want to hear anything about a late-inning defensive replacement, either.
His team wants the same thing for him.
Jiménez was back in left field Friday against Cleveland, one night after an ugly misplay led to another round of questions over whether the talented slugger might be better off at DH.
The response from the team was the same as it has been — just wait.
“I’m expecting that over time Eloy will fall into a good category on the defensive side and if it doesn’t, we’ll find ways to continue to augment his playing time out there,” manager Rick Renteria said. “We’re going to continue to work.”
The 23-year-old Jiménez was acquired in the July 2017 trade that sent pitcher José Quintana to the crosstown Cubs. There are no questions about Jiménez’s bat after he led AL rookies with 31 homers, 79 RBIs and 240 total bases last year. But he remains an adventure in the field.
The White Sox were leading Milwaukee 2-1 on Thursday night when Brewers star Christian Yelich hit a drive to left in the fifth. Jiménez misjudged the flight of the ball and it dropped inside the line, just out of his reach. Then his momentum carried him into the protective netting.
By the time Jiménez regained his footing, Yelich was flying around second base and he beat the throw home for his first career inside-the-park homer — helping propel the Brewers to a four-run inning and an 8-3 victory.
“When it came off the bat, I thought that ball was going to the warning track,” Jiménez said Friday on a video conference call. “It kind of stopped and go down to the right part of the field and I tried to make the adjustment but it just didn’t happen.”
Jiménez’s ability to play an even average left field is a major part of the plans for the White Sox, both this year and moving forward. Edwin Encarnación signed a $12 million, one-year deal in January, and the team also wants to use the DH spot for Yasmani Grandal when he isn’t behind the plate. Top prospect Andrew Vaughn is on the way, likely meaning more DH days for 33-year-old first baseman José Abreu as soon as next season.
Jiménez himself also wants to stay in left.
“I try to be one of the best outfielders, not just one of the best hitters,” he said. “I want to be a complete player and a nine-inning player.”
Jiménez has been working with first base coach and former major league outfielder Daryl Boston on his first step in the field. He hears the talk about his defense, and it motivates him.
“People don’t think I can play defense. For me, it’s a challenge and I know I can play,” he said. “So, it is something that I want to do for myself, first, and the people talking. And just go out and put some work (in) and play hard.”