White Sox

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

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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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The key to Lucas Giolito's success

The key to Lucas Giolito's success

Lucas Giolito has looked like a different pitcher this season, particularly over his last five starts, where he has posted a miniscule 1.67 ERA in 27 innings, striking out 32 and walking only 9. But even if you take his entire 2019 body of work into account, he has been so much better through eight starts than he was in 2018.

Of 109 pitchers who entered Sunday with at least 40 innings pitched, 24 of them are averaging 10 or more strikeouts per 9 innings, and Giolito is one of them, at 10.47. Giolito finished 2018 with 6.5 strikeouts per 9 innings, which is far from ideal. Going by strikeout percentage, he’s way up from 16.1 percent to 28.6 percent.

Comparing his first eight starts of the season in 2018 and 2019, the difference is staggering.

Lucas Giolito – first eight starts of season

  2018 2019
ERA 6.91 3.35
IP 41.2 43
Hits 37 32
K/BB 23/32 50/18
HR 4 3

Maybe the ERA stands out most to you, but to me, the strikeouts are much more critical.

But why? How is he doing it? The answer certainly seems to be the changeup.

Lucas Giolito first seven starts of 2018 and 2019.

Strikeouts by pitch type (pitch type data from Statcast)

  2018 2019
4-seam fastball 11 17
CHANGEUP 0 16
Curve 2 1
Slider 8 12

Giolito over his first seven starts of 2019 recorded 16 strikeouts on his changeup, whereas he didn’t record any strikeouts through seven starts last season. This shouldn’t come as much of a surprise if you have watched him work this season. That pitch is nasty and hopefully it continues to be a weapon going forward.

 

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Eloy Jimenez not in Triple-A lineup: Is he rejoining the White Sox on Monday?

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USA TODAY

Eloy Jimenez not in Triple-A lineup: Is he rejoining the White Sox on Monday?

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.

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