Jiménez will be out of action for five to six months with a rupture of his left pectoral tendon that requires surgery. Abreu intends to pay tribute to his friend and teammate by carrying these gloves during the entire 2021 season.
“That’s a way for me to carry him with me throughout the whole season on the field,” Abreu told MLB.com through interpreter Billy Russo. “It’s a way for me to honor him, to support him, to give him strength and courage to get better.
“It’s a way to feel his presence with us, to make him feel too that he’s with us. Even though he’s not there physically, we are thinking about him. He is a really good person. He’s with me for the good times and the bad times, and this is not a good time for us as a team. We need to support him and each other and keep each other closer and united. That’s the only way we can overcome this, and the way we can give him the strength to pass through this difficult moment.”
The injury took place in a game against the A’s on March 24 at Camelback Ranch, when Jiménez tried to rob Sean Murphy of a homer. The attempt was not successful, and Jiménez hung his left arm on the left-field wall and it got caught there on the jump, leading to the injury.
Abreu is the leader of this White Sox squad and almost a father figure to some of the younger players, or at least an older brother. His locker was located near Jiménez’s in the Guaranteed Rate Field home clubhouse during the 2019 season, with Jiménez always playfully giving Abreu a difficult time during interviews.
So this injury affected Abreu deeper than simply losing a valuable team contributor.
“I cried a lot. We cried together. It was heartbreaking. It’s not an easy situation for us, especially for me, at the personal level, just because of how connected we are,” Abreu said. “It’s not easy for me to go every day to the clubhouse and not see him there with his smile and the enthusiasm he brings to us every day. It’s a huge loss for us. It’s not just on the field.
“For me and for the whole organization, I know this is a very, very tough loss. It’s a void that’s now among us and we have to figure out how to fill that void and who can do the work and who can help us. As a team, that’s going to take some work. That’s something we will have to do as a team.”
Andrew Vaughn, who is Chicago’s top prospect per MLB Pipeline, received two starts in left field since the injury and should get regular-season time there in Jiménez’s absence. Zack Collins could also be a key contributor from the left side as more than just a backup catcher, possibly moving to designated hitter when Vaughn is in left.
Losing the 40-home run, 100-RBI potential of Jiménez is a significant setback, especially for a White Sox team with World Series title goals. Abreu has told Jiménez simply to concentrate on getting healthy, and he stays connected to his teammate via those red batting gloves.
“I’ve been talking to him a lot,” Abreu said. “I’ve been telling him, ‘Hey, your focus right now has to be your rehab and getting better. Be strong. We are all with you.’ It’s not an easy moment, but it’s just a little gesture that is the least I can do for him.”