GLENDALE, Ariz. — Eloy Jimenez feels close to becoming a major-leaguer.
“Really close,” he said.
As well he should, a .154 average in spring training notwithstanding.
The White Sox’ top prospect, the 22-year-old Jimenez was optioned to Class AAA Charlotte on Wednesday and will finish the month in minor-league camp, where he’ll get at-bats on a daily basis.
“They just told me to keep playing hard, keep doing what you are doing, we like it,’’ Jimenez said Saturday.
Jimenez played left field adequately and went 4-for-26 with two doubles, a home run, nine strikeouts and no walks in nine Cactus League games. He said his timing was off, something he hadn’t experienced.
Last season, Jimenez put pressure on himself to perform, perhaps trying to prove he deserved a promotion then. It didn’t happen because of service-time issues. He might have felt the pressure again this season trying to prove he’s major-league-ready.
“A little bit,’’ said Jimenez, who figures to be called up in late April, giving the Sox an extra year of contract control. “I tried to do too much. I think that’s why I didn’t have good results. I’m going to try to control that.’’
Because Jimenez didn’t tear it up this spring as Kris Bryant did with the Cubs in 2015 before being sent down for service-time reasons, the Sox probably will take less heat than they otherwise would have.
“I was trying to compete for the regular team, but I know that [remains] a possibility,’’ Jimenez said. “I’m going to work hard, and when they give me the chance, I am going to be the best player I can be.”
Santana set for first start
Ervin Santana will make his first Cactus League start Wednesday against the Diamondbacks.
Santana’s velocity was at 91-92 mph during a B game Friday, and the veteran righty, who allowed one run in five innings, was pleased with his location. He said the middle finger that caused him to miss most of last season is pain-free.
“Coop [pitching coach Don Cooper] says he has a little more in that tank,” manager Rick Renteria said. “He’s a veteran who knows what he’s doing.”
Downplaying Jones’ struggles
Renteria shrugged off Nate Jones’ bad outing against the Cubs on Friday in which he failed to retire all four batters he faced and allowed a home run to Wynton Bernard.
“That was a little oddity for us,’’ Renteria said. “The biggest concern is that he’s healthy, which he is. Yesterday was an oddball game.’’
Career-wise, perhaps, but not so much this spring for the 33-year-old Jones (12.46 ERA), who has allowed six runs, nine hits (three homers) and two walks with six strikeouts in 4„ innings.
Jones, whose $4.65 million option was picked up in the offseason, is slated to pitch again Sunday.
This and that
Renteria said he will announce his Opening Day starter Monday and give an idea of how the rotation will line up. Left-hander Carlos Rodon, who starts against the Diamondbacks on Sunday, is the favorite to start his first opener.
• Nicky Delmonico (concussion) could return as the designated hitter Monday, Renteria said.