Is Eloy Jimenez’s rehab assignment over?
The rookie outfielder wasn’t in the lineup for Triple-A Charlotte on Sunday, a potential indication that Jimenez could be on his way back to rejoining the White Sox for next week’s series against the Houston Astros in the Lone Star State.
Manager Rick Renteria wouldn’t provide a more concrete update on Jimenez than “he’ll be back soon” when asked about the rookie ahead of Sunday’s game on the South Side. But a day earlier, he echoed the team’s hope that Jimenez would be back for the upcoming road trip.
Jimenez has been on the injured list since he sprained his ankle leaping for a home-run ball in an April 26 game against the Detroit Tigers. Add in the three games he missed prior to that contest while spending time on the bereavement list, and Jimenez has taken just one major league at-bat since April 21.
It’s a lot of missed time, and it adds not only to the work he’ll have to do upon return but conjures questions about what kind of effect roughly a month of missed time during his first season in the majors will have on his continued development.
“He's been down, what is it a month right now? It's not a huge step backwards,” Renteria said Sunday. “The reality is it's going to be about how quickly he gets back re-acclimated to all the work he's been doing previous to going down and then continuing to adjust.
“It's the games that are going to give him the experience and the things he needs to do in order to improve in different aspects, whether it's hitting or on the bases or in the outfield. It's the game action that will continue to be the test to see if the work that's being done is actually bearing fruit.”
Jimenez has not gotten off to the red-hot start some expected. The No. 3 prospect in baseball is has a .241/.294/.380 slash line and three homers in his first 21 games as a big leaguer. In five games on the rehab assignment in Charlotte, he slashed .318/.318/.500 with a homer, a double and five strikeouts.
Certainly, though, most fans and observers are confident Jimenez will be fine from an offensive standpoint. It’s the defense that troubles them, and the play on which Jimenez was injured is an example of why. Renteria said there will be plenty of continuing work on that defense as time moves forward, also indicating that Jimenez could see some time as a DH, if only to ease him back from his injury layoff.
“There could be some DH spots, but most of it right now, in terms of his playing time, I've got to manage it because he's been down such a long time,” Renteria said. “Even though he's gone down on the rehab assignment, he's been working, it's not like playing every single day. ... We want to make sure he's come through it well, and obviously if he's joining us, he's come through it well. But just throwing him out there every single day would be, probably, a little premature.
“He's got a lot of work to do. (Outfield coach Daryl Boston is) going to be pushing him in his outfield work. He's going to continue to everything that he has to on the bases, in the box. Everything that you do requires fitness and health, and in order for him to continue to improve he's got to be able to give the effort that's necessary to improve certain skill sets.”
Will we see Jimenez back in the lineup Monday in Houston? We’re still awaiting the official word. But if this is the end of Jimenez’s injury layoff, that’s great news for the White Sox and White Sox fans.