KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Eloy Jimenez admits to feeling some pressure. Pressure to succeed. Pressure to live up to high expectations that accompanied his long-awaited arrival in the major leagues after his much-ballyhooed time as an elite prospect.
Oh, and the $43 million contract he signed before playing his first game in the major leagues. That, too.
The money was life-changing, and while it afforded him comfort, it also added to the pressure to perform.
It isn’t overwhelming pressure, but it’s there. And getting off to a none-too-rousing start — he’s now batting .227 with six homers and 14 RBI after going 1-for-4 in the White Sox’ 6-4 loss to the Royals on Friday night — did nothing to alleviate it.
Sure, he’s feeling it.
“A little bit,” he said. “For me, I am grateful they give me the opportunity to not have to worry about [financial security]. I know I need to work hard [to earn it]. But for me, there is a little bit of pressure because I want to be good because of the confidence they put in me. This is one of the things I need to control.”
Jimenez wants it all to click and happen right now, which makes him like almost every other 22-year-old in all walks of life. But like Yoan Moncada before him, he’s finding out it doesn’t always work that way.
“I’ve learned I have to be patient and keep working hard,” he said. “With everything — hitting, running the bases, playing defense, all aspects of the game.”
The Sox (29-33) lost for the third straight game, this time to a Royals team that had lost six in a row entering Friday. They didn’t hit enough to overcome Ivan Nova’s unspectacular start (four runs in 5„ innings) and a poor night for lefty reliever Jace Fry (1-2), who walked No. 9 hitter Billy Hamilton on four pitches leading off the seventh. The Royals (20-43) scored two in that inning, breaking a 4-4 tie. Adalberto Mondesi and Jorge Soler drove in the runs against Fry and Juan Minaya.
James McCann doubled in two Sox runs in the third against Homer Bailey, but after Moncada’s RBI double in the Sox’ two-run seventh, that was it for the offense. McCann led off the eighth with a walk and advanced to second on a wild pitch, but the Royals’ Jake Diekman retired three batters in a row, including Jimenez on a ground ball and Tim Anderson on a strikeout to end the inning.
Jimenez was probably thinking game-tying homer in that situation.
“When you come in as a rookie, you want to do great. Not good — great,” he said. “And sometimes it doesn’t work like that right away. That’s why I say I have to be patient. I know good things are going to come.”
Being more patient at the plate is a good starting point. Jimenez knows he has to stop chasing breaking pitches out of the zone. He was good in that area Friday, striking out on a fastball looking when he was expecting a breaking ball.
“At this level, you have to give it up every single day because this is the best of best in the business,” he said. “It’s tougher. You want to be great every day, but you need to adjust at this level.”
Jimenez has shown signs of picking up, going 8-for-25 with two doubles and three RBI in his last eight games. He punched a single through the right side his first time up against Bailey.
“He’s trying to adjust,” manager Rick Renteria said. “He’s still a work in progress. We see signs where he has really nice at-bats, some good plate appearances, and others where he gets outside of himself a little bit. Experience [will] be his biggest key in terms of his growth.”