Eloy raves about 'crazy' Classic atmosphere

After repping DR, Jiménez praises intense international rivalries, shifts focus to spring camp

March 17th, 2023

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- could have received a day or two to relax and recover following his competition for the Dominican Republic in the 2023 World Baseball Classic.

But there was Jiménez hitting cleanup and at designated hitter for the White Sox in Friday afternoon’s 4-4 tie with the Cubs at Camelback Ranch after returning to Arizona Thursday.

“We are here,” said a smiling Jiménez. “Why not? I need to get ready for the season."

“I was going to give him a day off, and he was like, ‘I want to play,’” White Sox manager Pedro Grifol said. “So all right, let’s play.”

Jiménez went 5-for-11 with one double and two RBIs over three games for the Dominican Republic, which ended at 2-2 in Pool D competition and did not advance despite being a pre-WBC favorite of numerous prognosticators to win the championship. The 26-year-old looked a bit wistful when briefly talking about Venezuela and Puerto Rico finishing above the Dominican Republic, but also raved about the competition.

Wednesday’s 5-2 loss to Puerto Rico didn’t have the desired results, but Jiménez called it one of the best games he’s ever played in. The White Sox rivalries with the Twins and Guardians are intense but pale in comparison.

“That was way, way, way, way, way different,” Jiménez said. “Not even when we play against the Cubs. The Cubs and White Sox have a rivalry, [but] Puerto Rico and Dominican have that rivalry outside of the field. It was crazy. I would say that is the best game I have ever played, one of the best games I have ever been in. Hate to lose, but they played well too. Credit to them.”

“He had a great experience down there,” Grifol said. “That was a really good experience for him and for these guys that are playing in the WBC right now. I’m happy they got this opportunity.”

Tim Anderson, Lance Lynn, Kendall Graveman (Team USA), Luis Robert, Yoán Moncada (Cuba) and José Ruiz (Venezuela) continue on in WBC play and remain away from White Sox camp. Jiménez came back to Cactus League action at the right time, with a full house in attendance Friday and another one anticipated at home Saturday vs. the Dodgers.

Otherwise, he would have to adjust from the frenzied WBC stadium crowds, with Jiménez shaking his head and laughing over some of the things he heard from the fired up and supportive fans during the games.

“There were a lot of people there, and the world was watching the games, so it was good,” Jiménez said. “I just feel really good. The field was packed, so it was crazy. All the guys, even with all the fans, it was great.”

The noticeably lighter Jimenez, who dropped approximately 25-30 pounds before the start of camp, doubled in his first at-bat Friday against the Cubs. He didn’t want to say anything about how the offseason preparation and weight loss have paid off beyond a desire to keep working. 

When considering his 17 at-bats over four games in the 2021 American League Division Series loss to Houston, Jiménez gave the edge to the World Baseball Classic regarding overall meaning and intensity. He’s representing his country, after all, which is something he would like to do again.

As for comparing the WBC to the World Series? Well, Jiménez has no frame of reference in that category. At least, not yet.

“When I play in one, I will let you know, because I don’t have the experience of playing. I don’t know how to compare that,” Jiménez said of the World Series. “I know the World Baseball Classic was fun. Something I will never forget, but not the result I wanted. Now we’re here, getting ready for the season, and that’s the most important thing.”