This past weekend in Minnesota things went from bad to worse for the Chicago White Sox. On Saturday, slugger Eloy Jiménez planted awkwardly after reaching first base in the top of the second. He remained on the ground for several minutes before exiting the game with trainers via the cart. While Jimenez lay nearly motionless on the ground in shallow right field for an extended period of time, Sox fans everywhere were screaming at their televisions about why this is happening again to the Sox and whose going down next.
Since the season began and even before the Sox have seen a plethora of injuries to key players on their big league roster. Players like Yoan Moncada, Lance Lynn, A.J. Pollock, Lucas Giolito, Luis Robert, and have all been forced to miss time from various injuries. This will be the second time already this young season Jimenez will miss time however this seems to be far more significant than the foul ball off the ankle he suffered earlier in the week.
When visiting the dark and treacherous place that is White Sox social media, you will find pessimistic fans everywhere coming up with everything under the sun as to why this team continues to fall victim to the injury bug. Everyone seems to have their own version of who and what is to blame for this. Anything and everything from “players come into spring training fat and out of shape” to shortened spring training does this, to folks even blaming manager Tony La Russa for not making sure players know the proper way to run through first base. To be fair, Leury Garcia made almost the same mistake the very next day luckily avoiding injury. While all of this looks very bad for the White Sox where does it leave them come July or even September for that matter, and how does this specific injury affect them long term?
Early diagnosis on Jimenez was a strained right hamstring costing the slugger six to eight weeks though many believe including me, this will be much longer than that. In the short term, the Sox will surely turn to Andrew Vaughn to fill the void in left field. While Vaughn has played left field quite a bit dating back to last season when Jimenez missed significant time due to a torn pectoral muscle, he is not an outfielder. A.J. Pollock figured to be the solution to the Sox right field issues when he was acquired in a trade with the Los Angeles Dodgers for closer Craig Kimbrel however, Pollock has more experience playing left field than right.
Manager Tony La Russa seems to love tinkering with this lineup and while nobody is hitting particularly well besides Tim Anderson, Vaughn is certainly the most capable bat to take the place of Jimenez in the lineup. Vaughn has shown signs of improvement against right-handed pitching early this year but seems to not be getting enough plate appearances. Sox fans certainly hope that is about to change.
Assuming Pollock can stay healthy which is a big ask on the southside these days, he should be your everyday starter in one of the two corner outfield spots. Assembling an outfield of Pollock in left field, Robert in center field, and Engel in right field makes a lot of sense. Giving Adam Engel a chance to get regular every day starts is not difficult. In my recent article, A Case For Adam Engel I explain why this makes sense however this is for a different reason. Eloy will almost undoubtedly miss significant time for the second straight season causing some Sox fans to even debate trading him. That would be foolish and short-sighted.
The key to stabilizing things for the Sox should not be a panic move followed by more panic moves. If the Sox can stay afloat long enough for Lance Lynn to get back healthy, Yoan Moncada to finally join the lineup, and this offense to start hitting, you should expect to see skies brighten on the southside of Chicago. The sketchy defense from their leader Tim Anderson will steady and as the weather warms I expect the bats to do the same. Jose Abreu is a notoriously slow starter and should start to drive in runs soon as well. It was a horrendous week for the White Sox no doubt, but teams go through these things and the Sox are no different.
The latest injury update for Eloy Jimenez is still the same 6-8 week timeline initially reported. Based on the way Jimenez went down Sox fans should pray this is the case. Make no mistake, the White Sox need his bat, but they can survive this. The trade for Pollock could prove to be even more fruitful if he can stay healthy and play on a regular basis until Jimenez can hopefully return later this season. Thank goodness the Sox play in the AL Central division and should be able to sustain and stay close in the division race until they get and hopefully stay healthy. The Sox simply cannot afford to lose another star for an extended period of time.
If Dylan Cease and Michael Kopech can continue their outstanding starts to 2022 that should also help the Sox win some low-scoring tight games while waiting on the offense to arrive. The addition of a healthy Lucas Giolito back into the rotation this past Sunday should help things as well. If the Sox are still starting Vice Velasquez and Dallas Keuchel come September, Sox fans should be upset. At least one if not both of them should no longer be starting games for the championship-contending Chicago White Sox that late in the season. Assuming Tony La Russa removes his head from his you know what and stops batting Leury Garcia third, you should relax Sox fans, there is a long way to go.
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