White Sox’ Eloy Jimenez has an MVP award on his radar

“I think one day I’m going to be the MVP,” Jimenez said. “I don’t know what year, but I think soon.”

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White Sox left fielder Eloy Jimenez, right, talks with coach Daryl Boston during practice Wednesday.

White Sox left fielder Eloy Jimenez, right, talks with coach Daryl Boston during practice Wednesday.

Ross D. Franklin/AP

GLENDALE, Ariz. — “MVP, MVP, MVP!”

Eloy Jimenez figures go big or go home when it comes to personal goals.

So when he was asked if Jose Abreu winning the American League MVP Award last season inspired him, Jimenez spoke candidly.

“That’s my goal,” the White Sox left fielder said. “If I keep working hard, I know some day it’s going to pay me back.”

A 6-4 tower of power, the 24-year-old Jimenez batted .296/.332/.559 with 14 homers and 41 RBI in 55 games last season, proving to be the middle of the lineup force the Sox projected him to be when they traded Jose Quintana to the Cubs to get him, right-hander Dylan Cease and two other prospects in 2016.

“The first place you always start is talent,” manager Tony La Russa said. “He’s got a special talent. When he stands there at the plate, however you would break down a stroke and what happens when the ball gets to the barrel, Eloy’s got that.

“I looked at him for the first time at the plate [Monday]. I was very curious to look at him. But I know [from] people I’ve been talking to about him in this organization that I trust. I just think [with] experience he’ll be better every year. The big leagues are about anticipating and adjusting, and I think he has a very special aptitude to go with that talent.”

When Abreu was announced on MLB Network this winter as the winner of the MVP Award, he wasn’t the only one who shed tears of joy.

“When they said Abreu is the MVP of the American League, I was crying,” Jimenez said. “You know why? Because I know the work he puts in every day. I know that he works hard every single day, no matter how he feels. And I feel proud of him. He is a really good leader and I think he deserves it.”

Jimenez wondered what it would be like to be in Abreu’s place on that day in December.

“I think one day I’m going to be the MVP,” Jimenez said. “I don’t know what year, but I think soon.”

Jimenez’s defense in left field has been suspect, and cleaning up his play there would help build a case for such a prestigious award, should he put together MVP-type offensive numbers. It’s a subject he is asked about on a regular basis. On Monday, it was asked in the second question of his news conference.

“Yeah, that motivates me because you need to work for something and I try to work hard for that,” he said. “But I don’t try to hear that a lot. I try to do my work and try to be better every day.”

General manager Rick Hahn assured Jimenez, publicly, that he would be the team’s left fielder and not its designated hitter, a slot his naysayers say suits him better.

“We view Eloy as the left fielder,” Hahn said. “Is it possible he winds up with some DH at-bats along the way? Sure. He’s obviously a Silver Slugger quality bat. We talked as a staff about the improvements he’s had in his defense over the last couple of years and that he’s not a finished product in that. You’ve heard this from people who have been around the club the last couple of years to know that he takes a great deal of pride in finishing the game.

“He doesn’t like being defensively replaced. It doesn’t mean it’s not going to happen, but he works hard to avoid that and we continue to give him every opportunity to show he belongs out there for all nine innings. Not just for his bat but also to help us defensively. The short answer is yes, he’s the left fielder. The longer answer is it’s not inconceivable that Tony deploys him from time to time as the DH.”

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