Jiménez aims to reclaim OF role over DH slot

January 23rd, 2023

CHICAGO -- doesn’t want to be the primary White Sox designated hitter, and that’s not exactly breaking news.

It’s a point he has made before and one he reiterated during a Monday afternoon Zoom with reporters. It’s an understandable view for a 26-year-old with 40-homer potential who is far from ready to focus solely on offense.

White Sox manager Pedro Grifol has talked about Jiménez receiving outfield time during the 2023 season, placing more of an emphasis on moving from left field to right with as the team’s everyday starter. But simply getting some outfield reps, maybe once or twice per week, doesn’t seem to quite fit Jiménez’s mindset.

When asked Monday about talking with Grifol concerning his role, Jiménez said it was good to speak to his new manager, “but I'm really preparing myself for playing outfield more than DH.”

Jiménez was then asked to clarify, to which he responded: “Yeah. Outfield. No more DH.” That was followed by Jiménez’s trademark smile and two thumbs up.

“Last year, when I was DH'ing more than [playing] the outfield, it was because I got surgery. And I understand that,” Jiménez said. “But this year, I've been working really hard to play the outfield more than DH.

“So, I don't really think that I'm going to accept it [DH’ing]. If I'm working hard, I'm going to get better, and I want to play in the outfield.”

Jiménez should feature this level of confidence entering the upcoming season. Upon returning from 2022 surgery to repair a torn hamstring tendon behind his right knee, Jiménez was limited primarily to the DH role to complement his recovery.

Despite being in a personally unwanted role, Jiménez found success with a .274/.343/.515 slash line over 210 plate appearances as the DH, along with 11 home runs and 35 RBIs. He posted a .340/.389/.515 slash line with five homers and 19 RBIs over 113 plate appearances as a left fielder.

Outfield opportunities appear to at least be present for Jiménez with center fielder and Benintendi slated as the only full-time outfielders on the White Sox depth chart. Left-handed-hitting rookie Oscar Colas, the No. 2 White Sox prospect per MLB Pipeline, will get a chance to earn the starting right field job, while switch-hitter and left-handed-hitting also could see games in the outfield.

Veterans Jake Marisnick, Billy Hamilton and Victor Reyes will be competing for a spot as non-roster invitees to Spring Training. Jiménez likes what he has learned so far concerning right field.

“I’ve been practicing more in right field this year,” Jiménez said. “I feel better. I was really working on every aspect of the outfield, moving backward, moving from side to side.

“It feels way different because most of the contacts in left field, you don’t know where it’s going to go. Right field is a lot different because every ball the right-handed hitter hits most of the time has some backspin. It’s way better being there.”

Jiménez's surgically repaired right knee received a positive review Monday. His overall physical conditioning, which has been an issue at times for the powerfully built 6-foot-4, 240-pound athlete, drew a wry smile and a promise of news to come in Glendale, Ariz., once Spring Training begins.

“I'm going to give you a surprise. I'm not going to answer right now,” said a smiling Jiménez. “You're going to see me in Spring Training.”

Jiménez also will be helping the Dominican Republic squad during the World Baseball Classic, which he deemed an exciting career moment. He expects to play left and right field during the March tournament.

Ultimately, Jiménez has to prove he belongs regularly in the outfield with the White Sox after recording minus-15 Defensive Runs Saved over 235 career games. He started working early this offseason to earn that right.

“I really want to get better in every aspect of the game,” Jiménez said, “so that was one of the reasons why I started early.

“This year's going to be a really good year, because if I can be healthy, I can do a lot of things. I'm really working hard every single day to play more games and help the team. … I feel really good.”