Now appearing at Wrigley Field: Eloy Jimenez

Almost two years after his blockbuster trade from the Cubs, Eloy Jimenez is set to make his first appearance at Wrigley Field as a member of the White Sox.

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White Sox outfielder Eloy Jimenez, making contact during a recent game against the Yankees, has five home runs in June.

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Eloy Jimenez looks back fondly on his time as a prospect in the Cubs’ organization.

He’s still close with players from that period, such as Gleyber Torres and Adbert Alzolay. Undoubtedly, some memories of being a potential Cubs star will flood back to him when he and the White Sox visit Wrigley Field on Tuesday and Wednesday.

And, sure, Jimenez said it’s going to be fun facing the Cubs at the Friendly Confines. But approaching the brief series, Jimenez isn’t playing the what-if? game with his career.

“It was really fun,” Jimenez said. “For me, it was really good. I appreciated [being] with them, but now I’m [with] the White Sox. I’m going to play hard for the White Sox.”

And the Sox are more than happy to have him.

Traded with Dylan Cease for Jose Quintana on July 13, 2017, Jimenez has developed the way the Cubs expected he would — but for the Sox. His play in left field is a work in progress, but at least Jimenez is eager to work with coach Daryl Boston to improve his reads and jumps to the ball.

Sox manager Rick Renteria has noticed the improvement.

“It’s a lot,” Renteria said. “He’s not as tentative as he was when he first got here, to be honest. I think he’s more aggressive to the ball. I think everybody sees him communicating a lot better out there with everybody. You realize when you’re playing at such a high level that everything really matters.”

And that power, which some envisioned punching holes in the new Wrigley video boards, has started to blossom across town. He has five home runs in June, and the strength that made Cubs fans dream of Bunyanesque exploits with the wind blowing out is now sending balls to the deepest parts of Guaranteed Rate Field.

“This is the guy who I’ve always been,” Jimenez said. “Right now, I feel that it’s there. I’m seeing the ball well, hitting the ball on the barrel right now. I’m taking more walks than the first two weeks. I feel really good.”

The deal that sent Jimenez (and Cease) to the Sox for Quintana perfectly illustrated where both franchises were two years ago. The Cubs wanted quality starting pitching at a reasonable cost and were willing to dip into their deep farm system to acquire Quintana. The Sox were looking for more building blocks for their renovation.

While Quintana’s value is up for discussion and the hype is building for Cease at Class AAA Charlotte, there’s no question about Jimenez. He has a lucrative long-term contract and is producing despite the approach opposing pitchers are taking with him.

“They’ve been pitching him kind of like a 10-year [veteran] since he got here,” Sox right-hander Lucas Giolito said. “I remember the first series in K.C., it was like a bunch of sliders, trying to get him to chase. I think that he’s starting to tune in on his approach a little bit. He’s starting to lay off some of those balls off the plate and punishing mistakes.”

Jimenez will have a chance to continue fine-tuning that approach at Wrigley. Renteria expects Jimenez to be excited about his first appearance on the North Side.

“I would imagine so because everybody gets excited about going over to that part of town,” Renteria said. “For him specifically, coming from that organization originally, I’m sure he wants to go out there and show them what he’s made of. And hopefully it’s something pretty solid.”

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