Eloy's formula for '22 rebound: 'Just enjoy what I do'

March 30th, 2022

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- There was something different about the 2021 season for the usually exuberant White Sox left fielder , and it went beyond the ruptured left pectoral tendon he sustained at the end of Spring Training.

“I [didn't] enjoy myself last year,” Jiménez told MLB.com. “So this year is different. It’s a different year.”

Jiménez, 25, finished with a career-low slash line of .249/.303/.437 after capturing a Silver Slugger Award during an abbreviated 2020 season. Those ’21 numbers included an unusually rough September and October, when he slashed .213/.289/.319 with two home runs, four doubles and seven RBIs over 25 games.

The injury, which came about when Jiménez made an ill-advised leap over the left-field fence at Camelback Ranch while chasing a homer, influenced him. But the shift in play wasn’t about any residual pain when Jiménez returned, as much as it was the energy and hard work put forth during months of rehab to return on July 26 in Kansas City and the ensuing desire to make up for lost time on the field.

“When you are rehabbing pretty much for the whole year, when you come back, you want to do so good and put so much pressure on yourself,” Jiménez said. “So I think that happened to me last year. I tried to do more than I can do, and I was more focused on doing really good than enjoying what I do.

“Now I feel like myself. Just enjoy what I do. I feel good. I feel back to normal, and everything is going well. I feel like I’m back.”

Spring Training statistics back up Jiménez, who is hitting .364 with two homers and seven RBIs after Wednesday's game against the Rangers. He also arrived in camp with the middle part of his hair dyed a blondish color, which he said he hasn’t tried since 2016, and possessing his fun-loving attitude among his teammates, media members and onlookers alike.

“Something new. Something different,” said a smiling Jiménez of the hair change. “I’m trying to do something fun.”

“He’s a kid who knows what he wants to do,” said White Sox first baseman José Abreu, through interpreter Billy Russo. “He’s a kid that knows how to get to what he wants to accomplish. This Spring Training, he’s been working really hard. We all are seeing right now the results of that work. Hopefully he can keep that and carry that to the season.”

A happy Jiménez should translate into a highly productive Jiménez. In 2020, he launched 14 homers in 226 plate appearances. In his rookie campaign in ’19, Jiménez finished with 31 homers, 18 doubles and 79 RBIs in 504 plate appearances.

It’s of little wonder writers such as MLB.com’s Paul Casella pick Jiménez to win the 2022 home run title.

“I let the people talk, you know, because I need to focus on what I want to do,” Jiménez said. “I know I can do it if I’m healthy, but that’s not my goal right now. My goal is to help the team make the playoffs and win a World Series.”

Are 40 homers or even 50 homers possible for Jiménez? A lofty total such as that one would increase the young standout’s enjoyment quotient.

“If I’m healthy, I know I can do it,” said Jiménez, without specifying a 40- or 50-homer goal. “So I don’t think about it.”