Jon Jay

Jon Jay will soon head to Arizona to continue rehab, but still not totally certain when he'll return to White Sox

0405_jon_jay.jpg
USA TODAY

Jon Jay will soon head to Arizona to continue rehab, but still not totally certain when he'll return to White Sox

The White Sox put Jon Jay on the 60-day injured list Sunday, but don't let that change your thinking about the veteran outfielder, as he's already been out of commission for more than half of those days.

He's eligible to come off the IL on May 27, the White Sox said, but whether that's the day he actually returns to the team or not remains to be seen. According to general manager Rick Hahn, Jay, who is working back from a groin/hip injury that popped up during spring training and has proven significant enough to keep him sidelined for at least the first two months of the 2019 season, is heading to Arizona on Monday to continue his rehab. Per Hahn, Jay is expected to increase his workload of baseball activities over the next couple weeks and will go on a rehab assignment sometime after that.

"Jon Jay is going to join our extended spring training program in Glendale on Monday," Hahn said. "We'll start ramping up his in-game activity there over the course of the next 10 to 14 days. Hopefully at some point there after he'll be able to join one of our affiliates and start a true rehab assignment."

While that puts a little bit more of a timetable on things, the dates of that rehab assignment and Jay's return to the big league team have not been established, likely only able to be figured out once he's playing in games again.

It's tough to imagine that anyone thought the White Sox would go this far into the season without Jay appearing in a game. Injuries happen, obviously, and Jay is attempting to work his way back. But it's a sting to the White Sox that they haven't been able to add Jay to their lineup at all during the season's first 30-plus games and they won't until at least the end of this month.

Along with fellow offseason acquisition and good friend Yonder Alonso, Jay was pegged by plenty of fans as part of the team's unsuccessful quest to sign Manny Machado during the offseason, but Jay brought plenty of value all by himself, such as his ability to bring on-base skills and veteran wisdom to the White Sox. He won a World Series with the St. Louis Cardinals and was in the playoffs as recently as two years ago with the Cubs. That experience figured to prove helpful to the team's young players, and Jay's versatility and strong defensive skills in the outfield figured to make the outfield a more stable place. And while Eloy Jimenez is entrenched in left field, when healthy, and Leury Garcia has certainly been capable — the owner of a .280 batting average and a .331 on-base percentage in his 28 games — other outfielders such as Daniel Palka, Adam Engel, Ryan Cordell and Nicky Delmonico have struggled to provide much offensive consistency.

Put simpler: It would've been nice to have Jay in the lineup. Surely he and the White Sox agree.

For now, the White Sox will continue the waiting game that's been going on since prior to Opening Day. Jay continues to work his way back and now will be doing so in Arizona.

When will he back? There's still no answer to that question.

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Jon Jay is taking batting practice, but his return to White Sox doesn't sound near

0405_jon_jay.jpg
AP

Jon Jay is taking batting practice, but his return to White Sox doesn't sound near

The White Sox are still waiting on one of their offseason acquisitions to make his 2019 debut. And it doesn't sound like it will be coming soon.

Jon Jay, signed to a one-year free-agent deal over the winter, has yet to play during the regular season, still dealing with the back, hip and groin injury that cropped up during spring training. His recovery process has been infrequently discussed by the White Sox, who seem to simply be stuck in wait-and-see mode with the veteran outfielder.

Jay took batting practice for the first time since the start of the regular season this week in Baltimore. But despite that sounding like a noteworthy step, manager Rick Renteria made it sound like Jay's return is still a good deal away.

"He's moving along," Renteria told reporters ahead of Wednesday night's game. "He took some BP yesterday. He's increasing his work, controlled work in a controlled environment. He's out there throwing now. So he's moving along as good as we can expect he should be.

"I think we're being cautious and simply allowing him to get his feet underneath him. He's out there now with the boys and trying to get back out on the diamond and do the work he can. And then the training staff will continue to give us an update measuring — it's slow and go right now. But he's coming along in a positive manner.

"Ultimately there will be a rehab assignment. That goes without saying. I think it just depends on when it begins. Right now, this is barely going to be the second day where he's taking BP out there, so we're a little bit away from me to even speculate as to when it can be, early or late. I couldn't give you anything in an accurate form."

That's hardly an encouraging update from the skipper, at least for those hoping to see Jay back in the lineup in the near future.

Jay played in a dozen Cactus League games during the spring, slashing a promising .324/.361/.500 with a couple homers and eight RBIs. While many fans latched on to his connection to star free agent Manny Machado this winter, Jay can provide a boost for the White Sox batting order, bringing the on-base skills that have yielded a .352 career on-base percentage. Only four or five White Sox hitters have succeeded from an on-base standpoint this season: Tim Anderson, Yoan Moncada, James McCann, Ryan Cordell and Jose Rondon have on-base percentages over .350 (those last two in limited playing time), while everyone else on the team is reaching base at clips under .330.

But when those skills can be imported into the lineup remains a mystery at the moment.

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No timetable for Jon Jay's return to White Sox lineup

No timetable for Jon Jay's return to White Sox lineup

When Jon Jay will make his White Sox regular-season debut was still a mystery as the home opener arrived Friday afternoon on the South Side.

Jay, the offseason acquisition who figures to be a staple of the top of the White Sox lineup, is still recovering from an injury that is affecting multiple parts of his body. It limited his playing time during the final weeks of the team's Cactus League schedule last month and has now kept him out as the regular season has started. Jay has reported soreness in his hip, his back and most recently, his groin.

Talking Friday at Guaranteed Rate Field (he remained in Arizona while the White Sox went on their season-opening road trip through Kansas City and Cleveland), Jay said he was feeling better but had no update as to when he might come off the injured list.

"Doing better. Stayed back in Arizona for about a week, worked with the staff down there, got some rest," Jay said. "Met with a lot of doctors over here, but everything is progressing well. There’s no timetable right now, trying to get better every day. But it is getting a lot better.

"I still have a little bit of symptoms, but it’s a lot better than it was in spring training. Just working one day at a time and trying to get back out there as fast as I can."

Jay only played in 12 games during the spring but fared well, banging out 11 hits, including a pair of home runs, in his 34 at-bats.

Jay was one of two White Sox acquisitions this offseason fans mostly associated with the team's failed pursuit of Manny Machado. But he, along with good friend Yonder Alonso, should help make this an improved White Sox lineup. Both guys bring valuable on-base skills, something Alonso's already put on display with his seven walks in the season's first five games. Jay has a career .352 on-base percentage and is just two years removed from a career high in that category, when he reached base at a .374 clip with the Cubs in 2017.

As for where Jay will play in the outfield on a regular basis, that also remains a mystery. Jay has the versatility to play all three positions there, though manager Rick Renteria alluded during spring training that Jay might not be in the lineup every day or in the same outfield position every time.

Jay's eventual return could cause a crunch in the outfield. While Eloy Jimenez has a permanent spot locked down in left field, center and right are more up for grabs. The White Sox currently have a lot of outfielders on the active roster: Jimenez, Leury Garcia, Adam Engel, Daniel Palka and Ryan Cordell. When Jay returns, one of them might get squeezed out.

But there's no timetable for when that might happen.

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