White Sox’ Burger could get playing time at second base

“If I feel it’s going to help us win, I’m doing it,” Sox manager Pedro Grifol said. “He’s done it before. He looks OK over there.”

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Jake Burger fields ground balls before the White Sox’ game against the Guardians Tuesday, May 23, 2023, in Cleveland. (AP)

Jake Burger warms up before a game against the Cleveland Guardians, Tuesday, May 23, 2023, in Cleveland. (AP)

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CLEVELAND — Jake Burger seems far from being groomed as an everyday second baseman, but the White Sox are working at second as they look for ways to keep his bat in the lineup when Eloy Jimenez returns soon from the injured list.

“It’s past the exploratory stage,” manager Pedro Grifol said.

A third baseman by trade, Burger entered Tuesday batting .271/.330/.667. with a .997 OPS and 10 home runs in 106 plate appearances. That slugging percentage leads the majors among hitters with 100 or more plate appearances, ahead of Aaron Judge.

Yoan Moncada, whose back injury opened the door at third base allowing Burger to flourish offensively, has the hot corner locked down. Jimenez starts a minor league rehab assignment Wednesday and, while he is expected to get more playing time in right field when he returns, he will get plenty of at-bats as the designated hitter.

Burger got his 11th start as the DH Wednesday. He continues to take ground balls at second base, where he appeared in three games last season, and it will be a challenge. Burger is not the best fielding third baseman, and second base requires more range and is more physically demanding.

“If I feel it’s going to help us win, I’m doing it,” Grifol said. “He’s done it before. He looks OK over there.”

Outfield is not a consideration for Burger “because he’s had some injuries,” Grifol said. “But we’ll keep him in the dirt, play some third, first, working out at second. Looks pretty good over there.”

It remains to be seen how much the defensively challenged Jimenez will play in right but Grifol has made it clear he’ll play more there than he did before going on the IL with an appendectomy, and by opening a door at second for Burger, the Sox seem willing to sacrifice defense for offensive pop. When you’re 19-30 as the Sox were going into their game Wednesday, perhaps there isn’t much to lose.

“Yeah, just don’t hurt us [at second base],” Grifol said. “The routine play. That’s really what this is about, really. Just try to play solid defense, swing it as much as you can and pitch. We don’t need to make spectacular or great plays, we need to make the routine play and execute fundamentals and pitch and swing it.”

Burger is more than willing and will do whatever it takes to stay in the lineup.

“We’re not there yet to do it every day, but we’ll do it,” Grifol said.

Jimenez leaves for rehab assignment

Almost three weeks after having an appendectomy, Jimenez left Cleveland to join Double-A Birmingham for games against the Cubs’ Tennessee Smokies.

“He’ll go down there for three, four days,” Grifol said. “We’ll evaluate him and see when we can add him.”

It could be as soon as the start of the team’s next home game Monday against the Angels.

This and that

Liam Hendriks’ next live batting practice session is Friday in Detroit, not Thursday as Grifol indicated on Monday.

*Elvis Andrus, who went on the 10-day IL May 13 with a strained left oblique, is working with few restrictions and will likely go on a rehab assignment mid to late next week, Grifol said.

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