White Sox' Adam Engel homers in rehab game, return date murky

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Engel homers in first rehab game, return date still murky originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

Welcome back, Adam Engel.

The Chicago White Sox outfielder, still on the mend from a springtime hamstring strain and the setbacks that occurred thereafter, returned to game action Tuesday night, homering in the ninth inning of his first rehab game with Triple-A Charlotte.

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It was a mighty positive sign for a team that could really use their fourth outfielder back at full strength, especially as they wait out the months-long recoveries of Eloy Jiménez and Luis Robert.

"It's taken longer than he expected, than we all kind of expected. But his presence on the bench while he's been hurt has been huge for us," White Sox right fielder Adam Eaton told NBC Sports Chicago on Tuesday. "He's kind of stabilized the young guys who are trying to work on that position, talking in the dugout, talking on the bench, in the clubhouse.

"When he comes back, he gives us a great right-handed bat. I haven't been hitting lefties very well, we've been trying to find a way. And he was raking in spring training. So he's going to give us a real good bat, excellent defense, a good arm and a great veteran presence.

"It will be almost like a midseason trade, so to speak, when he comes back."

White Sox manager Tony La Russa recently said it will be a big boost for the White Sox to get Engel back and that he'll likely be deployed in center field on a regular basis, adding however that the No. 1 priority will be keeping Engel healthy and not pushing him too hard.

That same line of thinking could apply to how long Engel's rehab assignment with Charlotte lasts.

La Russa didn't have a specific answer on when Engel would join the big league team, comparing his current stay with the Knights to a second spring training, of sorts, for a guy who's been out of action since the middle of the Cactus League schedule.

"You go to spring training and get 30 games, right? And (in those) 30 games, you may play in 20 of them. He's missed spring training and it's May, so he's going to go start playing and he's going to be in a hurry to be back," La Russa said Wednesday. "I've gone through this my whole career. Guys, they want to come back as soon as they start feeling good. He's feeling good, but he needs his timing.

"So we'll watch very closely. ... I don't think it's going to be as much health-wise, it's just going to be timing because you don't jump back in the major leagues. ... So I don't know (when he'll be back with the White Sox). I think a lot depends on how quickly he gets his timing down at the plate because the rest of everything I think is going to be fine.

"We want him healthy and productive. And we still have four-plus months to go. We'll see, time will tell. We can't be impatient and get him here."

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