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Encarnación, Eloy ready to bring title to White Sox

February 24, 2020

GLENDALE, Ariz.-- A connection exists between Edwin Encarnación and Eloy Jiménez running deeper than being important presences in the middle of the White Sox lineup.

GLENDALE, Ariz.-- A connection exists between Edwin Encarnación and Eloy Jiménez running deeper than being important presences in the middle of the White Sox lineup.

Encarnación, who turned 37 on January 7, has known Jiménez, 23, since Jiménez was 14 going on 15 years of age when they met at Amaurys Nina’s academy in the Dominican Republic. They are now good friends, with their families frequently getting together despite the 1 1/2-hour travel between their homes in the Dominican.

“I was very impressed the first time I saw him,” Encarnación said. “He was hitting bombs opposite field and in center field. He had tremendous talent for that age.”

“He came down to see his nephew,” Jiménez said. “We practiced and played together. And after that day, we started talking and keep in touch and now we are here.”

They were in Glendale, Ariz., at the time of this interview with late last week, but they eventually would like to reside at the top of the American League Central. Jiménez is coming off of a stellar rookie season where he hit 31 home runs and found a true groove at the plate in September.

Improving his defense in left field serves as an important goal for Jiménez, along with building off his strong opening production. Encarnación will see some time at first base, but his focus primarily will be as the team’s designated hitter where he brings a pure power presence.

That scouting report represents part of the rundown on each player. Jiménez and Encarnación provide the rest of the information.

“As a player, he can put up the numbers, whatever he wants to do,” said Encarnación of Jiménez. “The power he has and the maturity. He has an idea when he goes to the plate. He’s a great kid. He’s very humble, and he comes from a good family.”

“He’s a humble guy. He tries to help people,” said Jiménez of Encarnación. “In this business, when you have a player like that who tries to take care of you, that means something. As a player, I like the way he hits. All the power he has and now when he runs the bases … .“

At that point, Jiménez flashed a broad smile seen daily around the team and maneuvered his right arm into Encarnación’s post-home run trademark looking as if he has a parrot perched there. That trot began in 2012 after a grand slam, with Encarnación not even realizing he was doing it but his teammates encouraging him to continue.

“Everybody likes it now,” Encarnación said. “They put a lot of different things on my arm. But that’s the most people talk about is the parrot.”

“I'm just excited to have him here,” said White Sox first baseman José Abreu of Encarnación, through interpreter Billy Russo. “We all know the kind of player he is. We all know what he's capable of doing on the field with his bat. That's a big addition for us.”

Abreu actually played an important recent part in this friendship. Encarnación talked to the White Sox leader about “taking care of my guy” when Jiménez first reached the Majors in ’19.

“When you have people when you come to the big leagues like Abreu who take care of the young guys, it’s amazing,” Encarnación said.

“It’s amazing to have him and meet him in my life,” said Jiménez of Encarnación.

Prior to Spring Training, Encarnación and Jiménez last saw each other at the funeral of Encarnacion’s father, Elpidio. Encarnación has advised Jiménez throughout his time as a player, but it was Jiménez who welcomed Encarnación home after he agreed to a one-year, $12 million deal with an option for 2021 with the White Sox.

“Now I see everything he does and I’m going to be worrying about him here, and he is going to take care of me, too,” said Encarnación, drawing a laugh from Jiménez. “Back and forth. This is going to be a fun year for us.”

“We know each other for a long time,” Jiménez said. “So, get together and bring a title to Chicago, the South Side. It’s going to mean a lot.”

Scott Merkin has covered the White Sox for since 2003. Follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin and Facebook and listen to his podcast.