It took Eloy Jimenez 11 games to collect his first career extra-base hit, a double pulled into the left-field corner against Rays left-hander Jalen Beeks in the ninth inning of a 9-1 White Sox loss Wednesday at Guaranteed Rate Field.
And about 200 people can say they were there to see it. That’s about all who were left at the end of a rain-delayed blowout on a cold, damp day.
There will be more extra-base hits, right?
The Sox have wagered $46 million on the 22-year-old left fielder with a record contract that there will be. Like 30 a year for the next six years, with 20-30 home runs to boot.
“It’s good to have the first extra-base hit,” Jimenez said Wednesday, “and I know more are going to come.”
But what took so long for the first one?
Jimenez is discovering how pitchers are going to work him. Processing that while trying to stay within himself and make a good first impression presents one of his first big challenges as a major leaguer.
“You want to get off to a good start and show you belong here,” hitting coach Todd Steverson said. “He’s just getting his feet wet right now. Everything is sped up at the beginning of the season.”
Jimenez pounded minor-league pitching — he had a .337/.384/.577 slash line with 28 doubles and 22 home runs in 108 games between Class AA Birmingham and Class AAA Charlotte last season. The power he showed to all fields hasn’t left him, but starting with his debut on Opening Day, Jimenez whiffed at breaking pitches out of the strike zone. He has struck out 14 times.
The 6-4, 245-pound Dominican chalked it up to being overanxious. And he’s seeing the difference between pitchers who wear major- and minor-league uniforms.
“They can throw more breaking balls early for strikes and they’ll see if you want to chase,” Steverson said. “Pitchers here can get back into the count faster than those guys in the minor leagues. They’ll test your discipline early, and if you fall for it, they’ll keep testing your discipline. If you don’t fall for it, they can get back in the count. That’s a difference he’s starting to realize.”
Jimenez has collected enough singles — he’s 12-for-43 for a .279 average — to keep the ‘struggle’ word away from his name. He’s 8-for-19 in his last five games, surviving a Rays series in which he faced Cy Young winner Blake Snell and tough-stuff right-handers Charlie Morton and Tyler Glasnow.
“I feel good,” he said. “I feel more calm because I see the ball better. I have more confidence than the first day.”
“He’s doing a pretty good job of making bouncebacks,” Steverson said. “He takes an 0-fer and comes back with some good at-bats and sneaks some hits in there, taking the ball the other way and using the whole field. For me, that’s a positive.’’
And the power? It seems to be just a matter of time.
“He has hit some balls well but not as well as he can yet,” Steverson said. “He’s hit some line drives, squared ’em up. It will come. You can’t make any rash judgments two weeks into the season. If you’ve always done it, you can still do it.
“It’s sad to say this, but he has fouled off some balls that you know if he squared them up, that ball is going to go pretty far or be shot out of a cannon. You don’t want to be the ‘Aw, almost got it’ guy, but there are some swings and he’s right on time with them. He just hasn’t put them in play.”
Next up: Yankee Stadium.
“I’m excited,” Jimenez said. “I’ve never been in the new field. The old field, when I was a kid, I watched a game [there]. I’m going to enjoy it.”
Seems like a good place for a first home run.