You’ve seen what Tim Anderson can do on a baseball field, making plays with his bat, his feet and his glove and doing it in a way that gets the White Sox dugout all sorts of fired up.
They’re missing him right now.
It’s not to say that the team’s not-so-pretty 2-8 road trip to start the second half went the way it went because Anderson wasn’t in the lineup. But a first half filled with positives has segued to a second half that’s started in less-than-ideal fashion. The best way to shake off those doldrums? Getting an energizer like Anderson back from the high ankle sprain that’s had him on the injured list for the last month.
“Some of the guys have told me that,” Anderson said, presented with the idea that the White Sox are missing his presence. “It's been a tough stretch. I'm sure it's been hard, but take it a day at a time. I'm ready to get back with the boys and just keep having fun with them.”
That could be sooner rather than later. Anderson ran the bases ahead of Monday’s game against the Miami Marlins, with manager Rick Renteria saying that if all goes well the shortstop could soon head out on a rehab assignment. Unsurprisingly, Anderson was hopeful things would progress quickly, but Renteria didn’t rain on his player’s sunny projection one bit.
“Maybe a week or two, I'm thinking,” Anderson said. “I think it just depends on how I feel. But I feel good. I think I'll be ready to go maybe in a week or two.”
“Once he goes out and starts playing,” Renteria said, “I would say that is realistic.”
Getting Anderson back in the coming weeks would be a very good thing for a White Sox lineup that averaged just 2.4 runs a game and 1.4 extra-base hits a game during its seven-game losing streak to begin the second half. Anderson might not be hitting .400 like he was in the early weeks of the season, but he still owns a career-best .832 OPS.
Of course, that same lineup could use Eloy Jimenez, too, though the status of this injured White Sox hitter is a tad more difficult to pin down. Jimenez’s injury during the series against the Kansas City Royals was the lowest moment of the 2-8 stretch coming out of the All-Star break, the sight of him grabbing his limp arm after colliding with Charlie Tilson sending panic throughout the fan base.
It sent panic through Jimenez, too.
“We both said ‘I got it’ at the same time,” Jimenez explained Monday. “He heard me, but I didn’t hear him. I just hit my elbow and something happened. … I didn’t try to get hurt. It just happened.
“My first thought was that (my season might be over) because I felt a lot of pain and I didn’t feel my hand. I said, ‘Oh my god. I might be out for the season.’ But after I took the MRI, they told me, ‘You are going to be back soon.’”
Just like Jimenez’s first injury of the season, when he got his foot stuck in the outfield wall trying to rob a home run at Guaranteed Rate Field, things could have been much worse. Then, Jimenez ended up with only a high ankle sprain and was back in less than a month. The White Sox are still taking it easy with what they’re calling an “ulnar contusion” and have no timetable for Jimenez’s return this time around. But it’s not some severe thing that will wipe out the rest of his rookie year.
Jimenez has not yet been cleared to swing a bat or make throws from the outfield, perhaps an indication that his return is still a ways off. But that’s what the White Sox want right now.
“We're preventing him from swinging,” Renteria said Monday. “We're going to take care of this kid. This guy's a special kid. So we're doing everything in our power right now to make sure we limit his activity until we're ready to put him out there and do what we need to do to continue moving forward.”
The White Sox bumpy start to the second half might have been a rude awakening for those dreaming of the outside chances of a surprise playoff appearance, and with the postseason looking more like a 2020 concern rather than a 2019 one, it’s not exactly “crucial” that the White Sox get these two regulars back to remain in the playoff hunt.
But there’s no doubt that they could use Anderson and Jimenez back in the lineup, two boosts that would accomplish the task of making for a more competitive second half. Teamed with Jose Abreu, Yoan Moncada and James McCann, the lineup could continue to grow together as it steams toward a 2020 edition that could also feature red-hot prospects Luis Robert and Nick Madrigal.
If the first half showed that 2020 could be a contending year for the White Sox, one would assume, perhaps, that the second half of the 2019 season would be a continued climb toward that contending status. If it’s going to resemble a climb more than a slide, getting Anderson and Jimenez back on the field figures to be a big part of that.