White Sox approaching ‘very critical stretch,’ closer Liam Hendriks says

Hendriks said he’ll come off the injured list Monday, when the Sox open a stretch of games against AL Central teams. “We need to fall in love with the game again,” he said.

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Liam Hendriks of the White Sox reacts after securing a 3-2 win against the Tampa Bay Rays at Guaranteed Rate Field on April 16, 2022 in Chicago, Illinois.

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SAN FRANCISCO — White Sox closer Liam Hendriks will come off the injured list Monday, he said, and not a moment too soon.

“This is a very critical stretch for us,” Hendriks said before the team opened a three-game series Friday night against the Giants.

Right-hander Lance Lynn and Giants righty Alex Cobb matched zeros for five innings as the Sox (35-39), trailing the first-place Twins by six games in the American League Central, tried to keep the gap from getting out of hand. They were 4½ behind the Guardians.

On Monday, they play the Twins at Guaranteed Rate Field to start a stretch of 15 games in 14 days against division foes.

“It’s definitely make or break to help the front office clarify what we’re doing this year,” Hendriks said. “Whether it’s a good year, whether it’s a sit-and-wait year, whatever it is. But we need to in this clubhouse figure it out and take care of some business. We are facing our division, which is good but can also be very bad.”

Hendriks threw a simulated game Friday, the last step before he gets activated after going on the injured list June 14 with a forearm strain. Were it up to him, he would have been activated Friday. He won’t be available to pitch on back-to-back days until after two outings and days off following, he said.

Hendriks is as intense as they come, but he said the key for the Sox, who lost six of their last eight before Friday, is to “fall in love with the game” again.

“If we can play our kind of baseball, go out there and have fun and enjoy the game again, we’ll be just fine because the talent level in this clubhouse, we know what we need to do but we need to fall in love with the game again,” Hendriks said. “Unfortunately, some guys, in those tough stretches, you fall out of love with the game, you start pressing and pushing, but that never works. You have to go back to the basics, supporting everybody. That’s what’s going to get us back.”

Lynn pitched out of a bases loaded jam in the first, then settled in but caused concern in the third when Joc Pederson called time as he was in his windup. Lynn halted his motion and felt something, prompting a visit from the training staff. He then retired eight of the next nine batters through the fifth.

Eloy in left field — at Charlotte

Eloy Jimenez played the outfield for the first time in his rehab assignment, but there’s no timetable for his return.

“He’s getting more comfortable with his legs, with his hamstring,” assistant general manager Chris Getz said. “You see it with the running times down the first-base line and some of the sprint work we’ve been doing, so the arrow is pointing up.”

Jimenez had surgery to repair a torn hamstring tendon behind his right knee in April. His rehab assignment was paused because of soreness. Jimenez, who walked three times Friday, is batting .196 with one homer in 14 games at Charlotte. Getz said the leg is not affecting his swing.

“We haven’t seen that,” Getz said. “He’ll find his groove. It comes with consistency. Get in the outfield and see where it goes from there. Got to get him comfortable out there.”

Manager Tony La Russa ruled out Jimenez returning early next week.

Give what you can

Andrew Vaughn was back at DH after two days of rest. Asked what specific leg soreness he is dealing with, Vaughn said, “Just everyday baseball stuff. One hundred sixty-two games, we all feel something every once in a while. You just have to play through it.”

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