White Sox left fielder Eloy Jiménez suffered a rupture of his left pectoral tendon while leaping for a Sean Murphy home run in the second inning of Wednesday’s 14-4 loss to Oakland at Camelback Ranch and will be out for five to six months. Surgery will be needed, per general manager Rick Hahn, who spoke to the media via Zoom on Thursday afternoon.
Hahn was outside the exam room Wednesday after the injury and characterized Jiménez as being in quite a bit of discomfort. It was obvious something was seriously wrong, and even after the pain had been managed on Thursday, Jiménez still was very disappointed he’d be out of action for the foreseeable future.
“But he’s committed to getting the repair done and getting after his rehab in a smart, aggressive, prudent way and getting back as soon as his body allows,” Hahn said. “He’s Eloy, what you’d expect.
“It’s going to be very hard for him not to be around us for the next several months. I’m looking for a silver lining in this that it can be a learning experience or positive for him in the long term. But for today, the next few days until he gets the repair done, it’s reasonable for him to be as disappointed as he is.”
In Wednesday’s Cactus League contest, Jiménez worked his way back to the wall, but couldn’t quite corral the long drive. His left arm caught on the wall and hung over it with the attempt, and after staying on the ground for a bit, Jiménez walked off the field holding that left arm.
The 24-year-old is in his third season with the White Sox and is one of the American League’s top players with the bat, having produced 45 home runs, 120 RBIs, 32 doubles and an .848 OPS over 177 games. Jiménez also ranks ninth among AL right-handed hitters with those 45 home runs since 2019 and hitting coach Frank Menechino has talked about Jiménez’s potential to hit .330 or .340 with his immense ability.
Jiménez is one of the more likeable characters in this very outgoing, cohesive group, from his “Hi, Mom” greetings to his jokes with other players and even the media. But his defense remains a work in progress.
During the 2019 season, Jiménez was out from April 27 to May 19 with a high right ankle sprain after crashing into the left-field wall trying to make a catch against Detroit on April 26 at Guaranteed Rate Field. He was back on the injured list from July 17-27 with a right ulnar nerve contusion after colliding with center fielder Charlie Tilson on July 16 in Kansas City. Jiménez left a July 26 game against Minnesota last year chasing down a Jake Cave grand slam in the first inning and subsequently missed the next two games.
These defensive issues certainly aren’t coming from a lack of effort or desire to improve on Jiménez’s part, with the 6-foot-4, 240-pound athlete doing early work with outfield instructor and first-base coach Daryl Boston for the first half of last season. Jiménez spent the second half working with José Abreu on better physical conditioning.
Hahn couldn’t fault Jiménez for fundamentally trying to make a play in the outfield on Wednesday.
“Was it the right decision to go for that ball, especially when put in the context of Spring Training? Perhaps not,” Hahn said. “But fundamentally you like the fact he was trying to make a play.
“At some point in the much distant future, we’ll talk to him and talk through a plan about perhaps making some better decisions or what we are expecting of him going forward from a defensive standpoint. But for now, and for the immediate future, it’s going to be about getting him healthy again and getting him back contributing. We’ll discuss keeping him on the field at a later date.”
Only internal options to replace Jiménez will be discussed by Hahn. That group includes Adam Engel -- who is out two to four weeks due to a right hamstring strain -- Leury García, Billy Hamilton and Nick Williams, who are all players currently in camp. Hahn acknowledged Andrew Vaughn, the team’s top prospect, per MLB Pipeline, and targeted for the starting designated hitter’s slot, could see time in left, with manager Tony La Russa adding that Vaughn will start in left Friday against the Brewers.
There’s a chance the White Sox could add someone now or re-evaluate the situation in April or May. They certainly won’t wait until the non-waiver Trade Deadline if a change is necessary. The group will miss Jiménez’s potential to hit 40 home runs and drive in 100, but for now, the focus is on Jiménez, the person.
“Our biggest concern is Eloy,” said La Russa, who had a team meeting Thursday to discuss moving forward without Jiménez. “He's the guy that's hurt, he's the guy that's got to go through the rehab. Here's this great player who's not going to be able to show his greatness for the season. Hopefully we get him toward the end.”
“Obviously a difficult loss for us. Important part of our offense and one that is a bit of a shock to the system,” Hahn said. “At the same time, if there was one area of this team that perhaps could withstand a significant blow, it arguably would be on the offensive side of things, the run-scoring side of things. We obviously move forward with every confidence in this team’s offense and look forward to Eloy potentially rejoining us at some later date this season.”