Eloy Jiménez has settled into a nice routine for his media sessions.
He gives an exaggerated wave, usually with both arms, asks everyone how they’re doing and loudly exclaims about this writer’s facial hair.
Given that kind of thing is par for the course in every interaction with Jiménez, it’s hard to believe there was ever a time that the ebullient outfielder has ever been uncomfortable since arriving on the South Side at the start of last season.
But whether he was uncomfortable or just less comfortable, there’s no doubting he’s super comfortable now.
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Jiménez launched a clutch, game-tying home run Tuesday, an absolute bomb that traveled 428 feet to dead-center field. It was the biggest blast in the White Sox 3-2 win over the Milwaukee Brewers, the team’s sixth straight.
Like several others in the White Sox firing-on-all-cylinders lineup, Jiménez is off to a rip-roaring start. His homer Tuesday night was his third in the nine games he’s played this season. He’s slashing .333/.378/.667.
Things are going well for these White Sox, and Jiménez is right in the middle of it.
“It feels really nice, you know?” he said after Tuesday’s game. “This year, we have a different lineup. Everybody can have that moment, and that’s really good for the team.
“Thank god I’m part of the White Sox now.”
Even if you don’t get to laugh with Jiménez on Zoom calls or catch a glimpse of his camera-loving antics during game broadcasts, you should be able to glean from nothing more than the box score that he’s feeling better as a sophomore than he was as a rookie.
“I think he's starting to find his way at the major league level as a player. He's feeling more and more comfortable,” manager Rick Renteria said. “I know he always looks like he's happy-go-lucky. But it takes a little bit of time for guys to kind of sink in to understanding the depth of how good guys are at the major league level. And these guys are starting to show that they're capable of handling anything that's thrust in front of them.”
Jiménez showed off the kind of dead-center power he unleashed Tuesday throughout his rookie season in 2019, which he finished with 31 home runs. But even with that big number, that campaign was hardly a runaway success for him.
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Renteria talked often about how Jiménez was just scratching the surface of the kind of big leaguer he was going to be. And Jiménez himself has admitted often since that, at least out of the gate, he wasn’t playing how he wanted to be playing.
This season’s just a week and a half old, but already things are going much better for the 23-year-old left fielder.
“I feel much better, more confident at the plate,” he said. “Last year, I tried to do too much. This year? Go out and enjoy. That pretty much helped me.”
In general, this White Sox lineup is looking much beefier than it did when Jiménez was a rookie last year. In addition to him flexing his muscles in the middle of the order, the White Sox are getting contributions all over the place.
Luis Robert has been a daily wow factor, showing off his hit tool, his power tool and, as of this week, his speed tool. Yoán Moncada has been a steady hit producer. José Abreu came through with two huge hits against the Brewers, a game-tying homer Monday and a go-ahead RBI single Tuesday. Yasmani Grandal has heated up after a slow start. Edwin Encarnación presents a constant power threat. Even unexpected contributors have emerged in Leury García and Adam Engel.
In other words, the White Sox offense can do a lot of damage. But you knew that after it produced a combined 20 runs and 35 hits in wins Saturday and Sunday in Kansas City.
Jiménez is playing a starring role, which isn’t terribly surprising, considering he’s got the camera-friendly personality to go along with the highlight-reel home runs.
“I think it's hard to be in a bad mood when you're hitting game-tying home runs,” starting pitcher Lucas Giolito said. “Eloy's one of the very positive presences, one of the very positive people in our clubhouse. He's always laughing. He always has a smile on his face, always looks on the bright side of things. He's definitely a great guy to have in the clubhouse, amazing teammate.
“Obviously we saw what he can do on a baseball field tonight.”
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This is what the White Sox envisioned all along, of course, since the second they got Jiménez from the Cubs in that 2017 trade. A methodical rebuilding project was always supposed to end in a lineup as potent as this one, and Jiménez was to be right in the thick of it, alongside Robert, Moncada, Abreu and the rest.
But this is a long-term endeavor, too, one that's supposed to set the White Sox up for success years into the future, not only in 2020. Jiménez is supposed to only get better as only gets more comfortable.
This guy? More comfortable than he already is?
To borrow from Jiménez, who reacted to the final two questions he was asked Tuesday with playful confusion:
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