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White Sox option Eloy Jimenez, Dylan Cease to minors; Hahn says they’ll be back

Eloy Jimenez homers against the Cubs last March. (John Antonoff/For the Sun-Times)

GLENDALE, Ariz. — With Opening Day just two weeks away, the White Sox’ second round of roster cuts Wednesday featured several top prospects, including left fielder Eloy Jimenez and right-hander Dylan Cease.

But don’t fret, general manager Rick Hahn said they’ll be back this season.

The Sox optioned Jimenez, Cease, right-hander Jordan Stephens and catcher Seby Zavala to Class AAA Charlotte, and outfielder Micker Adolfo to Class AA Birmingham. They also reassigned catcher Zack Collins, outfielder Luis Robert and right-handers Jimmy Lambert and Donn Roach to minor-league camp.

With the moves, the Sox have 47 players remaining in camp: 25 pitchers, four catchers, nine infielders and nine outfielders.

Jimenez, the Sox’ top-ranked prospect, likely will be the first to get promoted to the majors in April. By waiting 21 days after the start of the major-league season, the Sox will have an extra year of contract control.

Jimenez, who hit a combined .337 with 22 home runs at Class AA Birmingham and Class AAA Charlotte last season, made it clear he wanted to break camp with the Sox, but Hahn believes the 22-year-old could benefit from some more at-bats in the minors after he went 4-for-26 (.154) with one home run this spring.

“I give him a lot of credit for being not only fully aware of where he’s at with his timing being off but being honest with himself and honest with everyone else about how he felt at the plate,” Hahn said. “That’s only going to improve with repetition.”

Hahn said he has “zero concerns” with Jimenez’s future despite his lackluster performance during the Cactus League.

“We’re still extremely bullish on his future,” Hahn said. “We think he’s going to be an impactful White Sox for a long time, and sending him out really doesn’t change our long-term view of him.”

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Like Jimenez, Cease feels ready for the big leagues. And if he could have it his way, he’d be in a Sox uniform on Opening Day.

“I feel confident that I can go and compete there right now,” Cease said.

Hahn likes Cease’s confidence and agreed that the 23-year-old could pitch in the majors now.

“[With Cease,] you see a big-league arsenal, and you see a guy that not only could survive but would have success at the big-league level,” he said.

But Hahn is concerned with the fact that Cease has never pitched more than 124 innings in a season.

“[Cease has] never taken the ball every fifth day throughout a five-month season really much less a six-month season,” Hahn said. “We need to have a plan, which we’ve worked on with Dylan and we continue to put together and we’ll remain flexible on, but how to get him through an entire season strong.”

Hahn compared Cease’s situation to Michael Kopech. In 2018, the Sox held Kopech back in the minors and monitored him for several months before he made his debut in August. Hahn believes Cease is on that same path and said the Sox “certainly see him” making his major-league debut this summer.

And as for Robert? Don’t count on him getting promoted this season.

Though Hahn said “it’s premature” to put a timeline on Robert, he made it clear he wants to see the Sox’ fourth-ranked prospect, who missed part of last season and this spring with separate thumb injuries, stay healthy for an extended period of time.

“Let’s get this kid the chance to play on a regular basis, knock on wood, stay healthy,” Hahn said. “[We’re] very excited for his future as well, and hopefully we’ve gotten past these minor things, and he can have a full, healthy, successful season.”