Eloy’s coming: Jimenez return to White Sox imminent; Grandal due after All-Star break

The hugs and smiles from teammates said it all.

The White Sox are happy to have Eloy Jimenez back.

The question didn’t need to be asked but it was presented to Jose Abreu anyway.

Good to see Eloy?

Looking across the way at Jimenez at his locker, Abreu nodded approvingly with a smile.

The Sox need more offense and more home runs in particular, and Jimenez, who returned to the team from his minor league rehab assignment but was not reinstated from the injured list, has the potential to provide it when he suits up, probably Wednesday.

Jimenez hit 31 homers as a rookie in 2019 and was a Silver Slugger winner in 2020 but injuries have limited his time since.

He hit one homer in 11 games before going down April 23 with a hamstring tear that required surgery, and hit just two homers with a .246/.318/.351 hitting line in a 17-game minor league rehab assignment at Triple-A Charlotte. So getting home run power from him doesn’t feel like a given.

“We just have to get back to being us,” said catcher Yasmani Grandal, who revealed Tuesday that he’s starting a rehab assignment at Double-A Birmingham Wednesday and expects be return after the All-Star break – the second bit of welcome news before the Sox played the Twins Tuesday at Guaranteed Rate Field. “First and foremost in order to win games you have to score runs. The offense has to get back on hunting and attacking and whatever happens, happens.”

The Sox ranked 11th in the majors homers in 2021, when they won 93 games and the AL Central Division. They ranked 26th Tuesday, sitting in third place with a 38-40 record.

“It’s obvious the home run ball has played a huge part in our success,” Grandal said. “I also think it plays a huge part in any team’s success. The good thing is we figured out different ways to manufacture runs. It’s made us a better team. So once the home runs come back it’s going to be a well-rounded offense where we’re not only winning games with the long ball but we’re winning without the long ball.”

Grandal hit 23 in 93 games last season but was struggling with a .185/.294/.237 hitting line and two homers in 50 games before went down with back spasms. Jimenez hit 10 homers in 55 games last season.

When Jimenez and Grandal are back, barring injuries the lineup will include Tim Anderson, Andrew Vaughn, Robert, Abreu, Moncada and Grandal for the first time this season.

Injuries have riddled the Sox roster since Opening Day, but with everyone coming back to the lineup, the starting rotation actually rotating with its five top pieces and Liam Hendriks back from his forearm injury, there should be no more excuses.

“Everybody is ready and healthy to play and then we’ll be prosperous,” Moncada said through translator Billy Russo. “If everybody is healthy, the rest is going to take care of itself. Health is a big if.”

The Sox’ brand of baseball – bad baserunning and shaky defense have in particular – has been iffy, too. And that must end.

“Just looking good on paper doesn’t take you very far,” manager Tony La Russa said Tuesday. “It’s taking it on the field and pitching, making plays and hitting.”

La Russa said the accountability chain starts with him. It’s also on coaches and players.

“You’ve got to pay attention, look deep,” he said.

“You’ve got to really analyze the situation. And the guys who are supposed to analyze it are the guys in uniform. Especially here, you’ve got expectations that you’re supposed to win. And if you don’t win, people get upset.

“I guarantee we’re as upset when we get beat as the fans are. But you just can’t [say], ‘Oh I see that’ … There’s more to it than that. The payoff is in analyzing, being honest and creating an atmosphere where guys recognize that when we do something wrong we’ve got to address it and we’ve got to fix it to get better.”

Maybe having Jimenez back in the lineup will make the Sox better.

It can’t hurt.

“They say he’s ready to go,” La Russa said. “We’re different when he’s around.”

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