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Eloy, Moncada impress in vision of Sox future

Jimenez hits slider for first MLB hit, adds another single later
@scottmerkin
March 30, 2019

KANSAS CITY – Let’s not use the word "tanking" or the phrase "good loss" when talking about an 8-6 White Sox setback to the Royals at chilly Kauffman Stadium on Saturday, a game delayed by rain for 30 minutes at the outset. Not for a team coming off a 100-loss

KANSAS CITY – Let’s not use the word "tanking" or the phrase "good loss" when talking about an 8-6 White Sox setback to the Royals at chilly Kauffman Stadium on Saturday, a game delayed by rain for 30 minutes at the outset.

Not for a team coming off a 100-loss season. Not for a team expecting to be more competitive in 2019.

But even in the second straight White Sox setback to start the season, a second straight loss where the team's play was hardly exceptional from start to finish, there were some bright moments in the present that give great hope for the future.

Eloy Jimenez, the No. 3 prospect in baseball per MLB Pipeline, picked up his first career hit in the second and finished with his first multihit game. Yoan Moncada, who was once known as the game’s top prospect, knocked three hits including his first home run and just missed on an Ian Kennedy pitch in the ninth, resulting in a game-ending flyout to right instead of a possible go-ahead home run with two runners on base. Jose Abreu hit the first White Sox homer of the season in the sixth inning, with two runners on base.

More important for Moncada, he has not struck out in nine plate appearances after leading the Majors with 217 K's in 2018.

"I am feeling good," said Moncada through interpreter Billy Russo. "I am carrying over the work I did in Spring Training. Just two games but I am feeling pretty good."

"He's swinging really good. He's on time," said Jimenez of Moncada. "I know he's going to keep going. It's going to be a good year for him."

Both Moncada and Jimenez are a testament to adjustments made by young players, with Moncada's more of the broader scope.

After pushing through a first complete big league season full of struggles, Moncada took it upon himself to do extra offseason work in Arizona with White Sox manager Rick Renteria and hitting coach Todd Steverson. That extra work has paid very early rewards.

Jimenez had seven swings and misses against the slider in an 0-for-3 showing with a run-scoring hit-by-pitch during his big league debut Thursday. Both of his hits Saturday came against the slider.

That first hit was a single up the middle in the second against Royals starter Jakob Junis. He added a second single in the sixth after retrieving the baseball from that initial single as a special keepsake.

"I'm going to put it in my room and I'm going to see it every day. It’s one of the firsts you’re never going to forget. It feels amazing," Jimenez said. "After it went through, I said, 'Yeah, I got my first hit.' I hit it on the end, and I didn't think it was going to be a base hit, but it's happening. I feel good."

"Everyone was pretty pumped for him," Renteria said. "Obviously it's a big day. For us, hopefully the first of many to come."

Two games does not make for a true success story, and there are certainly plenty of areas for improvement. In a three-run Kansas City third against Reynaldo Lopez, Jorge Soler's pop fly to left fell in between Jimenez and shortstop Tim Anderson. Jimenez called for the ball, but Anderson didn’t hear him, and Jimenez pulled up to avoid any collision.

Renteria and Jimenez agreed he needed to be more forceful with his calls on that sort of play. Learning defensive nuances such as this one also will help the White Sox turn losses such as Thursday's and Saturday's into more future victories.

"Our heads are up and we’re talking about, the season is just starting, keep the energy," Moncada said. "We have time and plenty of games to play. We are still confident. Hopefully we can start winning tomorrow."

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