GLENDALE, Ariz. — In just four appearances in spring training, Eloy Jimenez sure looked ready.
Jimenez sure thinks so.
“Si,” was the immediate answer to the question about his big-league readiness hours after he was optioned to Class AA Birmingham on Wednesday.
That’s confidence talking, but Jimenez knows his talent and hitting approach are evident to all. That said, the White Sox’ move wasn’t unexpected. As big, strong and good as the 6-4, 220-pound outfielder looks at the plate, there are understandable reasons to delay his
service-time clock and, for that matter, there are parts of his game that need to be ironed out in minors.
But not many.
After some time in minor-league camp, Jimenez will return to where he killed it at Birmingham (batting .353/.397/.559 in 18 games)
after a promotion from high Class A
Winston-Salem last year. But that’s the extent of his pro career above A ball.
“He did a great job,’’ manager Rick Renteria said. “Everybody saw a little glimpse of what the young man’s capable of doing. He’s going to go down there and continue to work on his defense and get more at-bats and get himself ready and hopefully put himself in a position where we’re all awaiting making the decision.’’
A promotion to Class AAA Charlotte can’t be too far off, and a call to the majors could come before the end of the season.
“I know that right now that I belong here,’’ Jimenez said through a translator. “I know that. That’s for sure. When I’m going to be there, that’s up to the team. They have to make a decision and when they want me to be there I’m going to be there. I can’t control that.’’
Even though Jimenez was limited to nine plate appearances because of tendinitis in his left knee — which he says is gone now — the Sox are having no buyer’s remorse from the trade that sent Jose Quintana to the Cubs for Jimenez, right-hander Dylan Cease and two other prospects.
Jimenez went 4-for-7 in Cactus League games, wowing everyone with a pinch-hit go-ahead homer against the Cubs on Saturday at Sloan Park, followed by another homer in his next at-bat against the Diamondbacks the next day at Camelback Ranch. The triple he lined to center in his second at-bat Sunday was hit harder than the home runs, both of which were opposite-field blasts.
Renteria said he can’t recall a player at Jimenez’ age “having an idea of what he wanted to do at the plate” so early in his career like Jimenez. Only Ken Griffey Jr. came to mind, Renteria said.
“I don’t want to get ahead of myself but Eloy seems to be that type,’’ Renteria said.
“His at-bats are really, really good. When he puts the barrel on the baseball, it can go a long way, put it in the gap. You also saw him advance on a ball in the dirt and take second base.’’
Renteria does not believe Jimen-ez is destined to be a designated hitter, as the Cubs have suggested.
“His defense is actually pretty good,’’ Renteria said. “When you watch him work, his defense does a lot of different things that put him in position to have success hopefully for the long term.’’
Cease, 21, had it going on, too, making three appearances and not allowing a run. For the spring, Cease gave up three hits and three walks while striking out nine over 6„ innings. He was reassigned to minor-league camp and is expected to start at Class A Winston-Salem.
The Sox also optioned outfielder Daniel Palka and infielder José Rondón to Charlotte, optioned left-hander Ian Clarkin to Birmingham, optioned outfielders Micker Adolfo and Luis Basabe to Winston-Salem and reassigned catcher Zack Collins to minor-league camp. Collins, a 2016 first-round draft pick, homered against Mariners lefty Marc Rzepczynski.
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