Chicago White Sox

'Unbelievable' Eloy Jimenez has impressed White Sox on and off the field

'Unbelievable' Eloy Jimenez has impressed White Sox on and off the field

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- Had the Jose Quintana trade never happened, the Winston-Salem Dash would have faced Eloy Jimenez on Monday night instead of playing alongside him.

The Dash hosted Myrtle Beach, the Cubs Advanced-A affiliate in the opener of a five-game series at BB&T Ballpark on Monday. Jimenez, 20, played 42 games for the Pelicans before the White Sox acquired him as part of a four-player package on July 13.

Given how he’s swinging the bat right now, most White Sox pitchers said they aren’t certain how they would have attacked Jimenez, who on Monday was named the Carolina League player of the week.

Their scouting report: Pitch him in, he’s going to beat you. Pitch him away, good luck. But Dash catcher Zack Collins knows how he’d try to tame Jimenez, who has been otherworldly since his arrival in the White Sox organization.

“We have this rule in baseball, four pitches and you can intentionally walk him,” Collins said. “That’s about all I would do is walk him every time. He’s unreal right now and obviously locked in. He’s a great hitter and hits the ball to all fields, so there’s really nothing you can pitch him.”

Carolina League pitchers would appear to be in line for a well-earned break. It’s expected Jimenez will soon be promoted to Double-A Birmingham.

Since he joined the White Sox, Jimenez was hitting .362/.427/.714 with 11 doubles, eight home runs and 26 RBIs through Sunday. But it’s the way he’s gone about it that has captured his teammates’ attention.

Jimenez -- who finished 0-for-5 in Monday’s 5-3 loss to the Pelicans -- blasted at least 850 feet worth of homers on Saturday night, including one over the American flag in left-center. He had a 5-for-6 game last month and there’s the home run he predicted he’d hit, a forecast that pitcher Ian Clarkin captured on his phone.

“I wasn’t surprised at all,” Clarkin said. “I talked to him before and said, ‘What do you got for me today, Eloy?’ ‘I’m going to hit a home run today.’ ‘All right, I’m going to quote you on that.’ “So we took a video of him saying I’m going to hit a home run today.

“First pitch (of his last at-bat), absolute missile and I wasn’t surprised at all. I wouldn’t lie to you, Eloy is so good. It’s so exciting to watch. You can pretty much predict he’s going to do something unbelievable.”

Jimenez is the same player who has twice struck the light standard, once in batting practice and another time in a home run derby. He also blasted a three-run homer and made a jaw-dropping catch at the wall in the 2016 Futures Game. One major league scout attending Monday’s game said Jimenez is one of the top-10 talents he’s seen in 30-plus years in baseball.

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But manager Willie Harris insists its far more than production and outstanding plays that captivates everyone.

“Ever since he’s been here it’s been very exciting to come to the ballpark and see what he’s going to do next,” Harris said. “He’s just an impressive young man, not just on the field but in the clubhouse too. He’s one of the leaders.”

Said pitcher Dane Dunning: “He’s a big team guy. He goes out and plays with heart and plays hard. He brings a good environment to the team in the dugout. It’s fun to watch.”

Jimenez said the reception he has received from teammates since his arrival has been critical to his success. He also tries to bring the same upbeat, energetic personality to the clubhouse everyday no matter how he performs.

“This feels amazing right now,” Jimenez said. “Feels pretty good at the plate and my teammates, they support me a lot. That is a good way for me to take advantage and do whatever I need to do.

“Amazing. Good. Positive. Everybody. They try to do good and they stay positive.

“My teammates support me and I support them.”

Jimenez said his favorite hitters to watch growing up were Manny Ramirez and Miguel Cabrera. He likes how both used the entire field and hopes to model himself after the demeanor each had in critical at-bats.

“Focus when they have the game in their hands and they don’t try to do too much,” Jimenez said. “They stay with the same plan and focus on the game. That’s what I try to do.

“Try to put the ball in play, have good at-bats and put a good swing on it.”

But it’s not just good swings that make Jimenez a success. His manager is impressed with Jimenez’s ability to identify the other team’s approach to him and how he can change his own on the fly.

“He figures out how pitchers are trying to get him out and he figures out his approach from there,” Harris said. “He fixes things it takes most kids a little longer to fix.”

Dunning isn’t sure there’s a solution to the problem he’s tried to work out since Jimenez arrived. The righty spent Monday night in the press box at BB&T Park charting pitches and thinking how he’d approach every hitter in the lineup.

It’s something he always does. Dunning said before the game he’s glad he no longer has to prepare to face Jimenez.

“He’s an incredibly tough person to pitch,” Dunning said. “When Eloy comes up to bat it’s like, I could try to get him inside and bam he hits a home run on a fastball in. You’re like, alright, maybe slider away and its bam double in the gap slider away. It’s just like everything I think of he can hit. He’s one of those kids who sees the ball real well and he’s able to put good swings on them so it’s more or less that you get lucky.”

Joining Hall-of-Fame company the latest feat for Jose Abreu, White Sox model of consistency

Joining Hall-of-Fame company the latest feat for Jose Abreu, White Sox model of consistency

Just how valuable is Jose Abreu to the White Sox?

Well, whenever you join Albert Pujols and Joe DiMaggio as the only baseball players ever to do something, you must be pretty darn valuable.

Abreu joined that elite company Saturday night, driving in both runs in the White Sox forgettable 8-2 loss to the visiting Kansas City Royals. Those RBIs brought his total to 100 on the season, making him the third major leaguer ever to hit at least 25 homers and drive in at least 100 runs in his first four seasons.

“Every year after a season I meet with my family and we review my season and my stats. Last year when we had the meeting, I told them next year I’m gonna hit 30 homers, I’m gonna drive in at least 100 and I did it,” Abreu said through an interpreter. “I was able to do it and that’s something that made me feel proud of myself and proud of my family, too, because they have been the ones who have been supported me through my whole career."

Abreu’s known as an extremely hard worker, a template to follow for many if not all of the youngsters coming up as the future stars of the White Sox rebuild. And so it makes this moment all the sweeter for him and those around him.

“It is especially important not just for me but for my family and my team,” Abreu said. “I think that this is a reward for the effort and all the work you put in for preparation for your season. It’s special when you get this kind of result and consistency in your stats. But the most important thing is it’s a reward for my family. And this organization, maybe we are not in the position we want to be right now as a team, but I know that better times are to come.”

“He works extremely hard,” manager Rick Renteria said. “I think everybody was feeling it for him tonight. He’s been pushing. He fouled a ball off of his left shin the other day, and you see him kind of gimping around there. … He’s not one to do anything to deter from continuing to help the team win first and foremost, but along the way he’s able to collect some individual merit points, so to speak. And put himself in a very special class.”

The big question surrounding Abreu isn’t whether he’s worthy of being the leader the young White Sox of the future need to turn rebuilding mode into contending mode a few years down the line. The question is whether he’ll still be around by then. His final year of arbitration is 2019, meaning if the White Sox are looking at 2020 as the year of true contention, it will take a new contract to keep Abreu in town.

A few things factor into that, of course. No. 1, Abreu could continue this consistently terrific pace and be lured away by another team willing to spend more to acquire his services. No. 2, though, is his age. He’ll be 33 years old when the 2020 season starts, and while that’s not old by most standards, it means he’ll demand a big contract — and likely a lengthy one — as he reaches the latter part of his prime. It’s not to suggest Abreu will dramatically slow down in terms of production, but it will most definitely be under consideration as the White Sox look to keep their window of contention open as long as possible.

For what it’s worth, Abreu is constantly thanking the White Sox organization for the opportunity to do what he’s done over the past four seasons, and he’s said how much he wants to keep playing for this franchise.

What is of no question, however, is Abreu’s worth as a top-of-the-line offensive player. His totals with a week’s worth of games left in the 2017 season: 31 homers, 100 RBIs and a .305/.356/.551 slash line. All those percentages would be his highest since his outstanding rookie season in 2014.

And his worth as a leader, as a guy who could be a rallying point for all these young players, that’s pretty darn valuable, too.

“I haven’t (tonight) made light of what I believe he’s becoming as part of this organization and what he is as far as what he does for the team,” Renteria said. “You got a couple of young men in there that are growing up and becoming a part of what I believe are leaders within that clubhouse. And he’s one of them. He’s certainly deserves it. He’s earned it. He’s worked for it. He’s been in this organization since the inception of his major league career. He’s someone that we all are happy is a part of us.”

White Sox not exactly sure what’s up with Carlos Rodon, but he’s confident he’ll be back for 2018

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USA TODAY

White Sox not exactly sure what’s up with Carlos Rodon, but he’s confident he’ll be back for 2018

It’s been more than two weeks since Carlos Rodon was shut down for the season, one day after he was scratched from a start with shoulder inflammation.

And while we know Rodon won’t pitch again in 2017 — a season with just a little more than a week remaining for the rebuilding White Sox — the team still doesn’t know, or still isn’t ready to say, exactly what’s wrong with the former first-round draft pick.

“We’re just trying to get it right,” Rodon said before Saturday night’s game against the visiting Kansas City Royals. “Still trying to figure everything out and take everything we can and put it all together to get the most information and do what’s best for me and for this team.”

That kind of non-update might raise some red flags in the minds of White Sox fans, curious as to what is the latest ailment for a pitcher who missed three months this season while recovering from biceps bursitis.

Rodon was slated to get reevaluated shortly after that early September injury. He was, but no news came of it, at least not yet.

“Pretty similar to what our doc said,” Rodon said of that follow-up evaluation. “Like I said, we’re trying to still gather all the information and figure out what we’re going to do from there.”

Rodon ended his third season in the bigs with a 4.15 ERA in 69.1 innings of work. And while the White Sox still believe he’ll be a huge part of their starting staff moving forward, it’s plenty acceptable to wonder what kind of effects this season of injuries will have on Rodon as the franchise’s rebuild chugs along.

“He continues to be a big part of what we believe is the future of the organization,” manager Rick Renteria said after explaining several times that the team is still trying to figure out what’s wrong with Rodon. “Unfortunately, this year he's been down quite a bit. So assuming he comes back in a good situation and is healthy and is capable of going out and performing, he fits into one of the five guys that are going to be out there for us next season.”

For his part, Rodon is 100-percent confident he’ll be good to go for next year’s campaign.

“I just know that I’ll be ready for next season,” Rodon said. “The goal is to be ready for next year and be healthy through all of next season.”

That, though, will be the million-dollar question as the White Sox starting rotation of the future begins to take shape. Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez are already penciled in for 2018, and Michael Kopech’s 2017 campaign in the minors was so sensational, he could potentially pitch himself into that starting five, too. With younger names like Alec Hansen and Dane Dunning also doing work in the minors, someone’s going to be the odd man out.

Rodon still has the confidence of his organization. But will he have the health to make that confidence pay off?