Eloy Jiménez is back with the White Sox season on the line.
After Jiménez missed the first two games of their AL Wild Card Series with the Oakland Athletics, the White Sox determined roughly an hour before first pitch that his sprained foot was well enough to allow him to run the bases as the starting designated hitter in the win-or-go-home Game 3 on Thursday afternoon.
Jiménez sprained his foot while running the bases a week ago in Cleveland and didn't play in the final series of the regular season against the Crosstown-rival Cubs. Though he was confident he would play in this opening-round series against the A's when he spoke to the media Monday, the team determined his condition had not improved to the point where he would be able to run the bases over the course of multiple at-bats as the DH, let alone man his usual position in left field.
The White Sox have long been adamant about their commitment to their young players' long-term health in the face of any short-term gain. Manager Rick Renteria had this to say before Game 3:
"You have two things to think about. One is the risk-reward in terms of how long can he actually help me if I put him in and if it ends up being one at-bat. I’d rather use that at-bat in one key moment. I’d like to have him in there as much as possible. Obviously, the DH slot is possible for him if he’s doing good, that keeps him off his feet a little bit more, running in and out from the outfield and keeps him from having to do things out there that would continue to put strain on his foot.
"But that being said, their health is always a main a concern of mine. If we know the probability of putting them in more peril is an issue, then that’s obviously a big concern. If it’s not, and they can manage what they have in front of them, and we can use them, we certainly will.
"Today might be the day, once we see him, and we go over everything that can happen, we can make a sound conclusion, decision to allow him the opportunity to be in that lineup. But there are a lot of things that have to fall into place. We want to make sure we all cover the bases that are necessary."
Of course, the return of Jiménez and his productive bat to the White Sox lineup is huge with their season on the line in a must-win Game 3. 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.
The return of Jiménez made a few other alterations to the White Sox lineup following the first two games of the series. Yasmani Grandal and Edwin Encarnación served as the designated hitters in Games 1 and 2, respectively. Grandal was in the Game 3 lineup as the catcher, leaving James McCann on the bench.
Additionally, Nomar Mazara got the start in right field against A's right-handed starting pitcher Mike Fiers, with Adam Engel moving to left field, where Leury García started in place of Jiménez in the series' first two games.
Grandal moved up to the No. 2 spot in the lineup after his two home runs in the first two games of the series, with Yoán Moncada sliding down to the No. 5 spot.
Here's the White Sox lineup for Game 3:
1. Tim Anderson, SS
2. Yasmani Grandal, C
3. José Abreu, 1B
4. Eloy Jiménez, DH
5. Yoán Moncada, 3B
6. Luis Robert, CF
7. Nomar Mazara, RF
8. Adam Engel, LF
9. Nick Madrigal, 2B