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White Sox’ Eloy Jimenez: ‘I just want to play baseball’

Playing in empty stadiums would be far from ideal, but Jimenez is willing to go along with whatever plan gets the White Sox back on the field.

Eloy Jimenez gestures to fans before a spring training game against the Reds on March 9, 2020, in Glendale, Ariz.
Eloy Jimenez gestures to fans before a spring training game against the Reds on March 9, 2020, in Glendale, Ariz.
Sue Ogrocki/AP

White Sox left fielder Eloy Jimenez is ready to play baseball. It’s what he does, and it’s what he already has made a good living doing at age 23.

He wants to earn his paycheck.

“We’re supposed to be playing baseball right now,” Jimenez said from Arizona on a conference call Tuesday. “It’s not in my hands, but I just want to play baseball.”

Jimenez, who said he has played many more video games than real games of late, came to spring training bent on improving on the 31 homers and .267/.315/.513 hitting line he produced as a rookie last season. He was one of the first Sox to arrive at the team’s spring-training complex every day before 5:30 a.m. He was rounding into form before the coronavirus pandemic changed everything and put the season on hold.

The Sox were primed to have a breakout season after three years of rebuilding.

“It’s been hard because the team we have right now was ready to go,” Jimenez said. “It happened for a reason. It’s just not in our hands.”

No one knows when baseball will resume, but plans are being discussed for the season to start perhaps as soon as late May, although under strange and possibly quite difficult conditions. Major League Baseball is considering having all 30 teams sequestered in the Phoenix area and playing made-for-TV games at 10 spring-training sites, Chase Field and possibly a few college fields for as long as necessary.

“MLB has been actively considering numerous contingency plans that would allow play to commence once the public health situation has improved to the point that it is safe to do so,” the commissioner’s office said in a statement. “While we have discussed the idea of staging games at one location as one potential option, we have not settled on that option or developed a detailed plan.”

Fans would not be allowed to attend, and players would be separated from families. Players might have to sit in the empty stands six feet apart from each other, in accordance with the social-distancing protocol. Games would be played in the blistering Arizona summer heat.

“For me, playing with fans is motivating,” Jimenez said. “I want to play hard every single day for them, and I enjoy talking to them. I don’t know what it’s going to be like to play without fans there.”

But tough decisions might have to be made to save a season.

“I don’t know if I could look at my kids just through a screen for four or five months. Same thing goes with my wife,” Red Sox pitcher Chris Sale told the Associated Press. “That’s a long time. But people have done it in harsh scenarios, I guess. I think there’s a lot of figuring out to do.”

Jimenez, who is single, said being separated for a long stretch of time would be difficult, “but if that’s the plan, then I agree. I just want to play baseball.”

“If they decide to play here [in Arizona], I’m going to enjoy it, but we want to play a normal regular season, like travel and all that. And play for our city, you know?”