The White Sox announced this morning that slugger Eloy Jimenez has been cleared to begin a minor league rehab assignment this weekend. Jimenez, who suffered a ruptured pectoral tendon during Spring Training and has yet to play in 2021, will start out with Class-A Advanced Winston-Salem.
Minor league rehab assignments can last up to 30 days, so this doesn’t necessarily mean that Jimenez will be back with the Sox in the very near future, but it effectively places a clock on his return to the roster (barring any kind of setback). Assuming all goes well with the rehab, it seems he’s on track to return on the more optimistic end of the four- to five-month recovery period the White Sox placed on him after he underwent surgery back on March 30.
It’s a welcome development for a White Sox club whose roster has been hammered by injuries to key players. Center fielder Luis Robert suffered a Grade 3 hip flexor strain in early May that came with a 12- to 16-week recovery period. Nick Madrigal’s season is over due to a torn hamstring that required surgery. Yasmani Grandal underwent surgery to repair a tendon in his knee this week.
Despite losing some of their best players for half the season or more, the Sox have run away with the feeble American League Central. The rival Twins have been perhaps baseball’s most disappointing team in 2021, while the Indians have lost their top three starters to injury and have plummeted in the standings while their replacements have posted a combined 6.87 ERA over the past month. Kansas City’s offseason spending hasn’t produced a winner on the field, and the Tigers are in what they hope to be the final stages of what has felt like an interminable rebuild.
That’s not to detract from what the ChiSox have accomplished. Few would have been surprised to see the team wilt with so many major injuries. The front office deserves credit both for bringing in veteran Brian Goodwin, who has helped to stabilize the outfield with a .253/.349/.493 batting line in his first 22 games, and for generally cultivating a deep farm system over the past several years. Prospects Gavin Sheets and Jake Burger have both hit the ground running in their big league debuts, for instance.
The Chicago pitching staff, meanwhile, has been the backbone of the club’s success. Spearheaded by offseason acquisition Lance Lynn and a remarkable breakout by Carlos Rodon, Sox starting pitchers rank seventh in the Majors with a collective 3.62 earned run average.
The general thought has been that the White Sox will be looking for help in the outfield and/or at second base in the three weeks leading up to the July 30 trade deadline. That Jimenez is already on the mend and perhaps on track to be back in the lineup by early August could directly impact the team’s strategy. The Sox recently designated Adam Eaton for assignment, but they’ve been more prominently linked to infield acquisitions thus far — namely Eduardo Escobar and Adam Frazier. An apparently looming Jimenez return can only make GM Rick Hahn and his staff feel better about the outlook in the outfield, whereas second base is still a fairly obvious area to upgrade.