Eloy Jimenez has said it before: He doesn't want to DH.
He said it pretty expressly in November, saying in an interview that he doesn't feel comfortable playing DH. Well, in case he wasn't clear enough before, he hammered home just how much he doesn't want to do that Friday at SoxFest.
"No," he said, "f**k that."
Well. That seems rather definitive.
Of course, that discussion topic isn't likely to go away until Jimenez shows a marked improvement in his defensive ability in left field.
His 2019 rookie season featured regular defensive adventures in the outfield, whether it had to do with communication, decision-making or body control. Both his stays on the injured list stemmed from miscues in left, the first coming when he sprained his ankle while attempting to rob an unrobbale home run against the Detroit Tigers, the second coming when he suffered an ulnar nerve contusion while crashing into Charlie Tilson in Kansas City.
And so, considering his regularly displayed ability to hit a baseball a million miles, the suggestion wasn't difficult to come up with for many fans and observers: Jimenez's future must lie as a designated hitter.
Rick Renteria dismissed that idea pretty forcefully, though not with as much profanity, saying in July that "it would be, I think, derelict on my part and on our part as an organization to limit the ability for him to play on both sides of the baseball."
Renteria further expressed his confidence that Jimenez has a bright future as an improved outfielder Thursday during his pre-SoxFest press conference.
"Do I think he can improve? Absolutely," the manager said. "I have no doubt in my mind this young man will be a better defender than people think he will be. But that requires commitment and work. It really does. We've got to put together something for this coming spring that makes sure we work on the things necessary to help him evolve in certain aspects of his game."
As for Jimenez, he's the declarative type who says things like Luis Robert is going to be the next Mike Trout, so it's no surprise his talk of his defensive improvement sounded more like a pledge.
"It's going to be better. I put more effort this offseason, too. It's going to be better," Jimenez told reporters Friday. "I know it can be better. I wasn't disappointed when Rick took me out of the game, I just said, ‘He's not going to do it anymore because I'm going to put in more effort and I'm going to work hard at that.'
"This year, you're going to see a surprise."
Fortunately for Jimenez, the White Sox are now pretty well set at the DH spot thanks to the offseason signing of Edwin Encarnacion. That move figures to vastly improve what was the worst DH production in the American League in 2019. But while Encarnacion is capable of playing first base, Jose Abreu's distaste for the DH spot means Encarnacion will likely serve as the designated hitter on a daily basis.
That's good news for the White Sox, to have someone with a track record of success (not to mention acceptance) in the DH role. It also allows Jimenez to continue his defensive development in left field and, as Renteria and the White Sox hope, to blossom into more of an all-around player.
That'll be a necessity, considering that DH'ing, for Jimenez, seems to be a non-starter.