White Sox rookie Eloy Jimenez will get to work on defense when he returns

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Chicago White Sox left fielder Eloy Jimenez is unable to catch a home run hit by Detroit Tigers’ Grayson Greiner during the third inning of a baseball game Friday, April 26, 2019, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Nuccio DiNuzzo)

Two days before rookie Eloy Jimenez suffered a high sprain of his right ankle while crashing into the left-field wall on an unplayable home-run ball Friday, White Sox outfielders coach Daryl Boston was looking forward to ramping up some needed work on Jimenez’s defense.

Boston was anticipating more night games — which allow for more and better pregame defensive drills — not to mention better weather, and he knew the 22-year-old Jimenez needed to smooth some things out in the field.

Jimenez’s bat earned him a No. 3 prospect ranking by MLB Pipeline, as well as a $43 million contract before he had played a major-league game. It was his defense that led some scouts to project his big-league future as a designated hitter and probably helped the National League’s Cubs agree to trade him to the Sox with right-hander Dylan Cease and two other prospects for left-hander Jose Quintana in July 2017.

‘‘I’ve heard that,’’ Boston said. ‘‘But it’s up to him whether he wants to be a DH or be an All-Star outfielder. He has to put in the work.’’

Jimenez’s effort isn’t expected to be an issue. He injured the ankle on a play that earned high marks for effort, if not skill. Unfortunately for him and the rebuilding Sox, the injury will deprive Jimenez of valuable development time, taking away needed at-bats and time to work on his defense.

Manager Rick Renteria had played Jimenez in every inning of every game except for the three he missed while on the bereavement list, knowing the more experience Jimenez gets, the better.

‘‘He can be an average to above-average outfielder,’’ Boston said. ‘‘He has great hands, and he runs well when he gets started. We have to get him better with his first-step quickness. His first two steps need to be more explosive. When he goes after balls, he needs to be sure about his routes.’’


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Given the way Jimenez’s bat projects, the Sox will take ‘‘average.’’ In his first 21 games, he had several issues in left field, including throwing with accuracy, tracking down balls driven to the corner and coming in and going back on fly balls. It hasn’t been awful, but it hasn’t been pretty, either.

On the plus side, Boston said Jimenez is receptive to coaching and wants to be better. On days when batting practice wasn’t skipped because of weather, Jimenez was stationed in left field, working on his jumps on live balls off the bat.

‘‘He’s willing to work,’’ Boston said. ‘‘We need him to be good. We have all the faith in him that he’s going to be fine.’’

It will be awhile before Jimenez can get back to the goal of being fine, however. High ankle sprains typically take at least six weeks to recover from, which would bring his return well into June. And then there will be a minor-league rehab assignment.

Jimenez played catch on one knee — albeit without his walking boot — in front of the Sox’ dugout Monday.

‘‘The trainers want to make sure [he does] whatever he can that’s within his control, keep his throwing going and doing any baseball activities that he’s possibly capable of doing,’’ Renteria said. ‘‘It’s a good sign for all of us because we’d like to have him out there sooner rather than later.’’

The Sox certainly won’t rush him back.

‘‘Today’s the first step,’’ Renteria said. ‘‘It’s a positive step for us.’’

With many steps to go.

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