GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Based on his interview session Monday at Camelback Ranch, White Sox left fielder Eloy Jiménez already appears to be in midseason form in regard to the daily happiness he brings to his job.
Jiménez joked about being tired after a longer day of workouts with the full squad in attendance for the first time at Spring Training. When asked about the potentially potent 2020 lineup, Jiménez shook his head and put forth one of his trademark “What do you think?” replies.
When the reporter asking the question responded by saying the lineup looked better than last year, Jiménez smiled again and added, “OK, you have the answer.”
But while Jiménez was smiling when asked about the possibility of hitting 50 home runs a year after knocking out 31 as a rookie, he clearly was serious in his retort.
“Why not?” Jiménez said. “Yeah, it’s a big number, but my goal is every year to have better numbers than the past year. So, I think, one day, I can hit 50-plus. But let’s see.”
A tremendous September during which Jiménez produced nine homers and 25 RBIs to go with a 1.093 OPS gave White Sox fans a glimpse of his immense upside on offense. Jiménez struggled at times early on in his rookie season, and the 23-year-old admitted that the six-year, $43 million deal he agreed upon with the White Sox before seeing his first career Major League pitch put extra pressure on him through trying to do too much and show everyone his full capabilities.
Now, it’s center fielder Luis Robert -- and his six-year, $50 million deal without any big league experience -- who will take the spotlight at the outset of 2020. And Jiménez will be there to help where he can.
“I have a lot of advice, because he signed [a large contract] like me,” Jiménez said. “But I’m not going to get crazy to give all the advice. He’s going to learn.
“It’s a little bit hard the first month. But after, he’ll get used to it, and he’s going to be good.”
New teammate Edwin Encarnación has served as a mentor to Jiménez since the young star was 14. Before Jiménez signed with the Cubs out of the Dominican Republic, Encarnación told him not to change because of money.
Before Jiménez reached the Majors with the White Sox, the advice centered upon not trying to do too much and just showing what he does always. And when Jiménez found out Encarnación was joining the White Sox this past offseason, the veteran designated hitter told his young protégé “we’re going to change the game.”
So, if you think Jiménez is happy now, just wait until September or October, if this prediction comes true.
“He’s always treated me as a kid he loves. For me, it’s good to have a veteran who takes care of me,” said Jiménez of Encarnación. “Everybody in the lineup can hit homers, can hit for average. So, for us, it’s going to be a challenge for everyone.”