White Sox’ Eloy Jimenez feeling better than expected but won’t be rushed back

Jimenez was running, taking batting practice and doing fielding drills two weeks after surgery.

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Eloy Jimenez talks to reporters Tuesday about working his way back after surgery.

Eloy Jimenez talks to reporters Tuesday about working his way back after surgery.

Daryl Van Schouwen/Sun-Times

To see Eloy Jimenez running sprints, hitting batting-practice bombs and dripping with sweat while talking to reporters in the White Sox’ dugout at Guaranteed Rate Field is to know Jimenez is a fast healer.

After tearing a hamstring tendon behind his right knee while running out a ground ball April 23 in Minnesota, Jimenez said he is feeling better now than he would have expected.

“He is a product of the modern-science miracle,” manager Tony La Russa said.

The Sox said the expected time away for Jimenez would be six to eight weeks, and they’re holding firm to the same estimate, strongly dismissing a report he’ll be back in two weeks.

There is no reason to rush the left fielder back, certainly not in May, not at the risk of not doing everything possible to ensure a full recovery.

“What we don’t want to do is push it ahead X number of days and then lose him,” La Russa said. “That would be unwise.”

Regardless, the recovery is going well, which is good news for a lineup that ranked 28th in on-base percentage, 22nd in slugging and 19th in home runs going into a four-game series against the Yankees.

“Yep, everything is going well, really good,” Jimenez said.

“Hopefully, I’ll be back sooner rather than later.”

Jimenez landed awkwardly with his left foot — right-handers usually land on first base with the right — on the back of the bag and was thought to have suffered the injury on his next step. But he said the tear occurred before he hit the base.

Players hugged and consoled Jimenez in the visitors’ clubhouse after the game, and he needed crutches to get around before surgery three days later.

The surgery was similar to the one that catcher Yasmani Grandal had last season that knocked him out for almost two months.

“That same day, I was feeling good; I was walking after surgery,” Jimenez said.

“Wow, I’m really excited. Try to get more healthy, then try to help the team.”

Jimenez, who was off to a slow start (.222/.256/.333), hasn’t played more than 55 games since playing 121 his rookie season in 2019, when he won the American League Silver Slugger Award for left fielders. He missed almost four months last season after tearing his right pectoral muscle reaching above the wall at Camelback Ranch during spring training. So he has been through the mental rigors of sitting out.

“It’s really tough every time I’m out,” Jimenez said. “And everybody knows I like to play. I enjoy it.”

Jimenez also enjoys being a presence in the clubhouse and dugout, spreading peace, love and joy.

The day after the Sox’ horrible 12-9 loss to the Guardians in 11 innings, he walked up behind La Russa, wrapped his arms around him and rested his head on his shoulder. For a few moments, he did not move, his grin not moving, either.

When La Russa talked to reporters in the dugout Thursday before the game against the Yankees, Jimenez walked past and in a high-pitched voice said, “Hola, Tony.”

“Pretty voice,” La Russa said, cracking a smile.

Jimenez is obviously his same, happy self. Being pain-free helps.

As the Sox grind through an injury-plagued, tough start, knowing Jimenez’s bat will be around for the majority of the season feels even better than his hug.

“We’re going to make sure to build up all the strength and stamina,’’ La Russa said. “But he’s really improving, and it’s exciting we’re going to get him back.”

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