Eloy Jimenez is preparing to play more outfield for the White Sox

Eloy Jimenez is preparing to play more outfield for the White Sox

CHICAGO — It looks like Chicago White Sox hitter Eloy Jimenez could be spending a lot of time at designated hitters this year.

Jimenez himself has other plans.

The 26-year-old said Monday he was preparing to play more outfield games, particularly immediately after Chicago signed Andrew Benintendi to a five-year, $75 million deal. The White Sox also have Luis Robert in the middle, along with Gavin Sheets and award-winning nominee Oscar Colás in the right mix.

Jimenez was sidelined for a few months last season after undergoing surgery in April to repair a torn hamstring behind his right knee. He returned in July and finished with a career-high 50 starts at DH — not exactly his favorite opening on the lineup.

When asked if he would take on the DH role this year, Jimenez replied, “I don’t know.”

“Last year when I played more DH’te than just outfield it was because I had surgery. And I understand that,” he said. “But this year I’ve been working really hard to play more than DH in the outfield. So I don’t really think I’ll accept it because if I work hard I’ll do better, and I want to play outfield.”

Jimenez has been a bit of an outfield adventure since making his major league debut with Chicago in 2019. He missed the start of the 2021 season after tearing his left pectoral tendon while trying to make a defensive play during an exhibition game.

But he remains a force at the plate, and his importance to the White Sox is not in question.

After Jimenez returned last year, he hit .305 with 15 homers, 47 RBIs and .895 OPS in his last 73 games. During his rookie year in 2019, he hit 31 homers and then hit .296 in 55 games during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season with 14 homers and 41 RBIs.

Chicago went 81-81 in 2022 and missed the playoffs after hitting the postseason for the past two years.

“We just have to be healthy, that’s the key now,” Jimenez said. “If we are healthy we can do anything because we are good on paper. But if we don’t play together as a team because of injuries, we won’t make it, you know? We’re not going to make it.”

Jimenez said he’s had “good communication” with Pedro Grifol since he took over as White Sox manager in November. When asked about his offseason condition, Jimenez playfully brushed the question aside.

“I will surprise you. I won’t answer now,” he said. “You’ll see me in spring training.”

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