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Eloy Jimenez’s energy rubs off on White Sox

“He’s always in a good mood, and don’t mistake that for not being competitive,” assistant hitting coach Howie Clark said, “because he’s highly competitive.”

The White Sox’ Eloy Jimenez, center, celebrates with teammates Tim Anderson and Leury Garcia after a game earlier this season.
The White Sox’ Eloy Jimenez, center, celebrates with teammates Tim Anderson and Leury Garcia after a game earlier this season.
AP

Eloy Jimenez might be the happiest guy in the dugout.

And in the clubhouse. Or on the field.

“His energy is absolutely infectious,”

assistant hitting coach Howie Clark said.

Whether he’s waving to his mom on camera, leading fans in cheers before a game — home or away — or spreading good cheer around his locker, Jimenez keeps it fun.

The latest example was Jimenez, alongside Luis Robert, standing behind reporters as they interviewed an unflappable Jose Abreu in the White Sox’ dugout Wednesday.

“Always messing around,” Abreu said.

As a cleanup man in manager Tony La Russa’s batting order who hits for average and power, Jimenez is no one to mess with in the Sox’ lineup. He’s probably their most dangerous hitter, his youth notwithstanding. At 23, he became the fastest player in team history (187 games) to 50 career home runs.

But don’t misconstrue the fun-loving demeanor for being a goof.

“He’s always in a good mood, and don’t mistake that for not being competitive,” Clark said, “because he’s highly competitive.”

And this, too, is no attempt at humor: When Clark and hitting coach Frank Menechino talk of Jimenez having the ability to hit .330, “we aren’t joking around,” Clark said.

That’s because Jimenez hits to all fields, “and not only that but drive it the other way,” Clark said. “That presents a lot of problems for the other team. It’s kind of pick your poison.”

“When I use the whole field, I see the ball better,” Jimenez said. “Sometimes when I try to pull too much, that’s when I get in trouble.”

Entering Friday’s game at Kansas City, Jimenez is batting .270/.313/.516 with six homers, 30 RBI and an .829 OPS over 31 games.

Clark said Jimenez’s ability to adjust on the fly, so early in his career, is telling. When he chases a pitch out of the strike zone or rolls over a ground ball to the pull side, “where he’s special is he recognizes it,” Clark said.

“And within the next couple of at-bats he gets back to his strengths. And how he hits with runners in scoring position, it’s really incredible.

“He’s special. He just has that knack and feel for hitting that is very hard to teach. I forget how young he is. His ability to make in-game adjustments is fascinating. Even if he has a bad game — whatever is a bad game for him — he shows up the next day ready to go, a brand new guy. An early-20s guy excited to be here.”

Jimenez is regarded as a subpar defensive outfielder, but he made one of the best running catches of his career in the 6-3 victory over the Pirates on Wednesday. He’s even putting on a happy face about having to be a designated hitter more than he wants to.

“I’ll try to do my best,” said Jimenez, who has played 18 games in left field and 13 at DH since coming back from a torn pectoral muscle July 25. “I don’t like it, but it’s for the team. I just want to win. And if this is going to help the team win, I’m going to be part of it.”

NOTES: At 16-12 in August, the Sox recorded their seventh consecutive winning month, their longest streak since a nine-month run from June 1993 to August 1994. It’s the first time since 2008 they began a season with five straight winning months.

• The Sox (78-56) are a season-high 22 games over .500, and their 46-24 record at home equates to the best winning percentage (.657) in the American League.