It doesn't sound like Eloy Jimenez's bout of hip soreness that kept him out of the lineup for the first two games of this weekend's series with the Texas Rangers is anything to be concerned about.
But for a player who loathes being limited to sitting and watching, it's just the latest injury-related bummer during a rookie season that's seen several of them.
General manager Rick Hahn started his press conference Thursday with the news that Jimenez was scratched from the starting lineup, delaying the on-field reunion of three of the team's young core players. Jimenez, Tim Anderson and Yoan Moncada, all three of whom have sat through lengthy stays on the injured list this summer, have played just one inning together since late June.
With the season in late August, that's not great.
That's not likely to have cascading negative effects on the White Sox ability to contend in 2020 or the individual developments of each player. After all, Anderson and Moncada remain in the midst of breakout seasons. Anderson's been smoking hot in August, with a .400/.419/.567 slash line on the month. Moncada returned from the IL on Thursday and promptly banged out a pair of extra-base hits, including a two-run homer.
Jimenez hasn't had the same level of success as the two guys on the left side of the infield, though that hasn't been a massive surprise. While expectations were sky high — any more missed time from Jimenez will directly impact the chances of my overzealous preseason prediction of 36 home runs coming true — it's not at all shocking to see any player, even one with as much potential as Jimenez, go through rookie-year growing pains. Just look at what Moncada went through in his first full season in the big leagues in 2018.
Jimenez's "struggles," if you want to call them that, haven't been quite as pronounced as Moncada's thanks to the sheer fact that every time Jimenez launches a ball to dead center he provides a thrilling glimpse of the future, of the player he's supposed to be one day. There have been stretches of that player, but they've been slowed or flat out stopped by injuries.
The two big ones, the ones that landed Jimenez on the IL, aren't expected to be recurring problems. The first, as manager Rick Renteria will be quick to remind you, came when Jimenez made a play he shouldn't have attempted to make, trying to, as Renteria put it, "climb a wall" while going after a home-run ball. The second one was of the freak variety, him banging his elbow into Charlie Tilson in the outfield.
But whether they'll repeat themselves or not, those injuries brought his momentum at the plate to a halt. A slow first few games had Jimenez's batting average at .167 and his on-base percentage at .231 on April 5. In the 15 games that followed, he owned a .273 batting average and a .322 on-base percentage. That momentum was stopped by the first injured-list stint, which lasted nearly a month.
After returning, Jimenez had a great month of June, with a .284/.340/.602 slash line to go along with eight homers in 24 games. But by the middle of July, he was on the IL again after whacking his funny bone in that collision with Tilson. The numbers have not been good since he came back from that absence: a .235/.257/.439 line in 24 games.
"Little bit, yeah," Jimenez said Friday, asked if the injuries have been frustrating. "Because they started to happened when I was starting to feel good at the plate."
"He's obviously had a couple of things go on," Renteria said. "Anytime you have an interruption, it can throw the rhythm off a little bit, but he's still making adjustments just like anybody else and learning how to do it at the major league level. He'll be fine."
Just like there are no long-term concerns over Jimenez's hip, Renteria showed there are no concerns over Jimenez's long-term prospects as a dominant bat in the middle of the White Sox batting order of the future. It certainly wouldn't be unexpected, come 2020, to see Jimenez make a jump similar to the one Moncada made this season.
But in the middle of a season spent learning what big league pitchers are trying to do against him, the injuries haven't helped Jimenez.
He's surely hoping this brief absence stemming from the hip issue is the last of them in 2019.
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