Will Eloy Jiménez be in the White Sox lineup for Game 1 of the AL Wild Card Series?
He sure hopes so.
"In my mind, I'm going to play tomorrow," the 23-year-old slugger said Monday, one day before the White Sox start postseason play against the Oakland Athletics.
In reality, Jiménez reported, the team will make one final evaluation Tuesday and determine then whether he's healthy enough to be part of manager Rick Renteria's starting nine.
Jiménez sprained his foot running the bases last Thursday in Cleveland. He was removed from that game in the seventh inning and didn't play at all during the final series of the regular season against the Crosstown-rival Cubs.
Monday in Oakland, Jiménez worked out with his teammates, running, hitting and throwing, and said he felt worlds better than he did after initially suffering the injury four days ago.
"I feel much better today than I would expect," he said. "A couple of days ago, I didn’t think I might play because I couldn’t even walk. But today, I just ran, and I feel OK for playing. I feel great now, I feel really good that I’m going to be available to help the team."
Whether the White Sox will deemed him well enough to play Tuesday remains to be seen.
A possibility, of course, is that Jiménez could be well enough to hit but not well enough to run around the Oakland Coliseum's expansive outfield. In that case, Renteria said Monday, Jiménez would certainly be considered to start as the White Sox designated hitter.
"In any situation, the reality is I want to take and assess how much of a load I can relieve from him if he's still feeling some of the effects of that bruising or whatever it is that is causing that sensation in his foot, anything that would maximize our ability to use him. Is DH'ing out of the question? Absolutely not," Renteria said. "Everything is on the table. Everything that we can possibly do to put ourselves in the best position possible, we will do."
Jiménez seemed to think that's what was coming.
"Right now, I feel like I can go out and do my best, but I don’t know what they have in mind," he said. "I think I’m going to be DH for the first game, but I don’t know."
Indeed, the White Sox could really use him in the middle of their lineup, which has struggled for the better part of the last week and a half. While the bats came alive to score a combined 18 runs Saturday and Sunday, they mustered just 22 runs on a 1-6 road trip through Ohio before getting blanked in a 10-0 blowout against the Cubs on Friday.
Now it's playoff time, and while a few key pieces that had been struggling are showing signs of perhaps snapping out of their respective funks, the lineup would obviously benefit from the presence of Jiménez, who was one of the few hitters who stayed productive during the team's recent offensive slump. He finished the regular season with a .296/.332/.559 slash line, ranking in the top 10 in the American League in hits, homers, RBIs, extra-base hits, total bases and slugging percentage.
If Jiménez does end up as the White Sox designated hitter for Game 1, what that means for the rest of the lineup remains to be seen. With James McCann likely to catch Lucas Giolito in Game 1, would Yasmani Grandal be out of the starting lineup? Again, we'll see Tuesday.
More important than how the lineup would shake out, though, is whether or not Jiménez will be in it.
"I’m going to be available," he said. "I’m going to go out to try to do my best, and if I don’t play, I’m going to be in the dugout, cheering for my boys.
"But in my mind, I’m going to play tomorrow."