Less pressure, more home runs? White Sox’ Eloy Jimenez looks ahead to second season
“Yeah, [50 is] a big number, but my goal is every year to have better numbers than the past year,” Jimenez said.
GLENDALE, Ariz. – It’s hard to measure the value of a first, full major league season.
Eloy Jimenez didn’t know what he was in for, and he still managed to swat 31 homers in 122 games.
The speed of the major league game caught Jimenez off guard. The quality of pitchers and their knowledge of how to get him out was eye opening. And then there was the self-imposed pressure of justifying a $43 million contract signed during spring training before he had played a single game.
“At the beginning [of the season], I’m not going to lie, I had too much pressure because I tried to do too much,” Jimenez said Monday on the first official day of spring training for position players. “And the injuries (high ankle sprain, elbow) didn’t help me a lot. At the end, I felt like everything was slowed down and was easy because I just tried to play the game and enjoy the game.”
In September, Jimenez posted a .340/.383/.710 hitting line with nine homers and 25 RBI. With a full season, and that finish behind him, Jimenez is a picture of relaxed, self confidence this spring.
Luis Robert, who signed a $50 million, six-year deal to play center field next to Jimenez, will go through the same things Jimenez did. Pressure, pitchers pounding breaking stuff down and away, getting him to chase.
All of it with that hefty price tag attached to him.
“It’s normal because you have a contract before you’ve played in the majors, and you want to show the people what you can do,” Jimenez said. “That’s why it’s a little bit hard the first month. But he’ll get used to it and he’s going to be good.”
The silver lining, Jimenez said with a wink, is that Robert, 22, will take some scrutiny away from Jimenez, 23.
Jimenez, who swatted 31 homers as a rookie, will draw plenty of attention, though, especially if he increases his long ball pace to, say, 50 home runs. He was asked if that big number was within reach and didn’t back away.
“Why not?” Jimenez said. “Yeah, it’s a big number, but my goal is every year to have better numbers than the past year. So I think, one day, I can hit 50 plus. But let’s see.”
Jimenez’ defense, which was below average at best last season, will be watched closely. His motivation to improve it, he said, is to avoid being subbed for with a defensive replacement late in games.
“We really need him to step it up and improve on his defensive end in left field,” manager Rick Renteria said. “He started having some growth out there last year. I asked him, do you want me to take you out in the seventh, eighth or ninth? He goes, ‘no.’ “
Renteria’s message in a nutshell: Understand your role and responsibility defensively.
“I want to play nine innings,” Jimenez said. “So that’s why this year I’m putting more effort into the defense.”
Immense hitting talents aside and a year of experience notwithstanding, Jimenez can expect to endure a valley or two again this season. While Robert has fellow Cubans Jose Abreu and Yoan Moncada to mentor him through times of trouble, Jimenez now has fellow Dominican Edwin Encarnacion, whom he has known since he was 14, for advice.
After Jimenez signed with the Cubs, Encarnacion advised Jimenez to don’t let the money change him. And on the field, don’t try to do too much.
“I appreciate him because he’s always treated me as a kid he loves,” Jimenez said. “It’s good to have a veteran who takes care of me.”
Source : Daryl Van Schouwen Link