MINNEAPOLIS — The White Sox lost for a sixth straight time in a less than inspiring 9-2 setback to the Twins on Saturday afternoon at Target Field.
But there was virtually no concern about the outcome after the team dropped to 0-5 on this six-game road trip to Cleveland and Minneapolis. The focus fell completely upon left fielder Eloy Jiménez, who departed on a cart in the top of the second inning with right hamstring soreness after being thrown out at first base on a slow roller to third.
On Sunday morning, the White Sox provided an update on Jiménez:
“Eloy Jiménez will be placed on the 10-day injured list [Sunday] with a right hamstring strain. After returning to Chicago, Eloy will undergo further evaluation by White Sox team physicians at Rush University System for Health and a treatment plan will be put in place. The club expects to be able to provide an update prior to Tuesday’s game. Preliminarily, it is estimated that Eloy will miss approximately 6 to 8 weeks.”
One by one after Saturday’s game, players approached Jiménez at his locker and shared a few words of encouragement or patted the fun-loving slugger on the back. While manager Tony La Russa and the White Sox are hoping this setback doesn’t sideline Jiménez as long as surgery to repair a ruptured left pectoral tendon did in 2021, they understand this injury is significant.
“We have to wait for the MRI to get the final diagnosis, but it makes everybody want to break up,” said a somber La Russa, while acknowledging more tests needed to be run on Jiménez. “The injury to Eloy is more important than losing the game. … I feel sorry for him.
“You walk in the training room and you see him, and he’s crying his eyes out. You walk in and everybody cries. He loves what he does. I told him there will be a lot of season left when he gets back.”
Jiménez had been starting as the designated hitter this week while dealing with left ankle soreness from a foul ball off that spot. He hit the base awkwardly with his left foot on that second-inning grounder against Twins starter Dylan Bundy, but then injured his right leg with the next step. Jiménez fell face-first to the ground, and after being checked on by Daryl Boston, the White Sox first-base coach called for help.
After getting up under his own power but with a little assistance, Jiménez was taken off by cart with Gavin Sheets taking over in right field and Andrew Vaughn moving to left. Losing Jiménez is significant because of his 40 home run potential and the ability to truly carry the White Sox when he gets hot. It’s also significant because of how his love for the game permeates throughout the team.
“His energy is contagious,” said closer Liam Hendriks, who made his first appearance in a week. “It’s something he can turn on and make everybody around him feel like a kid again, which is something currently we need.
“It’s a blow to him because we know he wants to be on the field. He’s in there every day making sure he’s having fun, getting involved. Right now there is a little bit of shock but we still have a lot left in the season. We have to make sure his kind of feeling on the field isn’t missed by much and when he gets back we get that big boon again.”
Injuries already have ripped through the White Sox (6-8) at just the 14-game mark. Third baseman Yoán Moncada is sidelined by an oblique strain, with La Russa saying pregame that he still feels a little something when swinging left-handed. Right-hander Lance Lynn is on the injured list after surgery on his right knee, while center fielder Luis Robert is out this weekend in Minnesota due to a right groin strain.
Left-handed reliever/starter Garrett Crochet was lost for the season after undergoing Tommy John surgery during Spring Training. Opening Day starter Lucas Giolito is scheduled to return on Sunday after missing two starts due to an abdominal strain.
This last week has been miserable for the White Sox, but there’s plenty of time to turn things around with a World Series goal still in mind. But the sting of losing a key player hurts much more than their first six-game losing streak since Sept. 20-25, 2020.
“When you know a person like that who is a big asset in the lineup, to lose him is obviously … It hurts you. It affects all of us,” said starter Vince Velasquez, who suffered the loss on Saturday. “That’s the energy that you want in the clubhouse — in the clubhouse, outside the clubhouse, on the field, off the field, no matter where you’re at. That stuff obviously carries with you and it grows with you.”
“What it does is just reduces the importance of losing the game,” La Russa said. “You lose a player. We have another chance to play tomorrow. He won’t. It seems kind of corny, but that’s exactly what it is. He’s part of the family … And we did lose the game.”