Eloy 0-for-4 in return: 'I was a little extra excited'

/ by Vinnie Duber
Presented By Nationwide Insurance Agent Jeff Vukovich

It was not a thunderous offensive output from the Chicago White Sox on the night of Eloy Jiménez's return.

Jiménez, dropped into the cleanup spot after missing the season's first four months, was 0-for-4.

"I was a little extra excited," he said after the game, a 4-3 loss to the Kansas City Royals.

RELATED: Eloy is back, and the first-place Sox are even better

But don't worry, his personal results did nothing to wipe the permanent smile off his face.

And so the White Sox can lean on the returned slugger to cheer them up after another quiet night at the dish, something that's become commonplace of late. With just three runs on five hits Monday night in Missouri, the South Siders have scored a combined 10 runs in their last five games. Even the win, a "big-time" victory over the first-place Milwaukee Brewers on Sunday night, featured just three White Sox tallies.

But while Jiménez's bat symbolically shattered in his first trip to the plate this season, his smile — which Twitter grouches might condemn as inappropriate, given Monday's outcome — was made for times like these.

"He really just kind of brings that smile to the clubhouse, day in, day out. You can't be mad at that," White Sox starting pitcher Dallas Keuchel said. "It's kind of infectious when he kind of lightens the mood in the clubhouse. Sometimes when things get a little tight in here, he's usually one of the ones that lightening it up."


Of course, Jiménez's bat figures to lighten things up for the White Sox, too. His return is a bigger deal than pretty much any acquisition any team could make ahead of Friday's trade deadline, and teamed with the expected returns of Luis Robert and Yasmani Grandal later this summer, a group of South Siders that proved themselves contenders without their injured stars could shift into another gear with them.

That doesn't mean it will happen immediately, though, as Keuchel cautioned last week.

"We don't really know how we're going to be playing with a full healthy lineup," he said. "I mean, these guys have missed a lot of time, so for them to come back and pick up where they left off is a big ask."

One oh-fer from someone who hasn't faced big league pitching in months is no harbinger of doom. But for that very reason, it's fair to wonder how much time Jiménez might need to get his timing back, to get into a rhythm at the plate. Jiménez grounding out a couple times and chasing pitches out of the strike zone was not exactly the on-field equivalent of his super peppy pregame press conference.

"I think it's there," Jiménez said of his timing. "I saw the ball good, I was just super excited. And I hit the ball, that is the most important thing, that I hit the ball.

"I feel pretty good. I feel I'm going to be back soon. Just a couple of games, and I'm going to be there.

"I'm facing the best pitchers in the world. ... I'm just letting the game speed on me a little bit, too excited. But from now on, I just need to control it."

The better story, of course, would have been for Jiménez to return and let the offensive fireworks rip on Night 1.

But that's still what's expected to happen, Jiménez providing that powerful boost in the middle of the White Sox lineup as they continue to chase a championship.

An 0-for-4 night and a loss wasn't the dream "welcome back" party some folks in the White Sox clubhouse might have had in mind. But just having Jiménez in the lineup was perhaps the most important win on Monday night.

"Results will come," Keuchel said. "It would have been nice for him to hit a couple of home runs. Really nobody didn't expect that.

"But just in the big picture, he's a proven hitter. He's a guy that's a cog in the middle of the lineup and a run producer. It just extends the lineup."

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