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White Sox brace for challenging week vs. Astros, Twins, but Eloy expected back

Jimenez didn’t play Sunday for Charlotte, could return Monday in Houston.

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. jumps and high-fives a teammate
Vladimir Guerrero Jr. crosses home plate after hitting a home run.
David Banks/Getty Images

The White Sox are about to experience one of their most challenging weeks of the season. At least they could be getting Eloy Jimenez back to make things somewhat easier.

After their 5-2 loss Sunday to Toronto, the Sox optioned Nicky Delmonico to Class AAA Charlotte. The corresponding move will be announced Monday, but it wouldn’t be surprising if Jimenez returns. He didn’t play Sunday for Charlotte and has hit .318 with a homer in five games during his rehab assignment.

Jimenez’s season was halted when he suffered a high right ankle sprain April 26. Fortunately for him and the Sox, he has plenty of time to continue his development.

“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,” manager Rick Renteria said.

“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.”

The game action Sunday didn’t go the Sox’ way. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. hit a two-run homer in the eighth inning off Kelvin Herrera to give the Blue Jays a 3-1 lead, and the Sox ended a 3-3 homestand on a sour note.

Bouncing back won’t be easy when they visit the American League West-leading Astros for four games and the Central-leading Twins for three.

“We’re going to play some of the best teams in the game of baseball. Yeah, you’re going to find out,” Renteria said.

“Everybody is going to see like when Boston was in town, their record wasn’t as good, but when you look across the field and you see all the talent that they have, you’re trying to measure up and see where you’re at compared to those other clubs and the balance that they bring in different areas of their game.”

The Sox don’t want this trip to look like that series against Boston, in which they lost the last three games and were outscored 24-4 in the last two. And if the Sox play like they did at times against Boston, the next two teams could do similar damage.

The Astros once again look like a threat to win the World Series with a plus-92 run differential. And the Twins have emerged as one of the most powerful teams with 87 home runs, second-most in baseball and one ahead of the Astros.

“It’s a great opportunity to play some of the best teams in baseball right now. I’m excited,” outfielder Charlie Tilson said. “I’m really looking forward to it. I think as players, these are the challenges that you look forward to. We’ll go out and give it our best effort, see how we stack up.”

Comparing the Sox to the Astros and Twins is one thing, but comparing them to last year’s Sox is another. Through 45 games last season, the Sox were 14-31. After Sunday, they’re 21-24, and Reynaldo Lopez sees an improving pitching staff and a productive offense.

“We’re trying to do our best in every game, and we’ve been able to show that on the field recently,” Lopez said through a translator. “Things are going to start getting better for us because I think we’re getting better, too.”

That will be tested this week, but Jimenez’s return would help.