Eloy Jiménez is playing hurt. And despite the team's place in the standings, White Sox manager Pedro Grifol isn't going to change that. Photo Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports Apr 18, 2023; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Chicago White Sox manager Pedro Grifol (5) looks on before game one of the doubleheader against the Philadelphia Phillies at Guaranteed Rate Field. Mandatory Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

Eloy Jiménez started was the designated hitter for the Chicago White Sox in Saturday’s game against the Minnesota Twins. He went 1-for-3 with a walk before being removed for a pinch runner. Chicago ended up losing, finishing on the wrong end of a 3-2 final score.

Jiménez is playing hurt, nursing a sore groin. As such, he’s not giving a full effort on the bases when running. Chicago manager Pedro Grifol is aware of that. After Saturday’s game, the skipper made it clear that he wants Jiménez’s bat in the lineup despite his limitations on the bases.

“I want his bat over his legs,” Grifol said, per Daryl Van Schouwen, Chicago Sun-Times. I want to make sure I get that out there clearly for everybody. I choose his bat over his legs. That’s all he can give us. I’ll continue to monitor that and if I think it becomes a problem for us where he’s going to get hurt or compromise us in any way running the bases, then I’ll make a change. But for right now I’m choosing his bats over his legs.”

Grifol then spoke on the possibility of giving Jiménez a day off in Sunday’s series finale. It’s safe to say that the manager is opposed to the idea.

“I’m not giving him a day tomorrow, he said, per Van Schouwen. “He’s playing tomorrow. We’ve got to win that ballgame tomorrow.”

Saturday’s loss moved the White Sox to 41-59. Not only is Chicago 11 games behind the division-leading Twins, but the White Sox are nine behind the second-place Cleveland Guardians and four back of the Detroit Tigers in third place. And as bad as the division race is, the Wild Card chase is even tougher. Chicago is 13.5 behind the Toronto Blue Jays, with six other teams between them. It’s hard to imagine postseason baseball making its way to the South Side in 2023.

Jiménez, meanwhile, is hitting .277/.321/.466 with 12 home runs. That’s not a great season by any means. But he’s 26, signed through next season and the White Sox have club options for the 2025 and 2026 seasons. This isn’t some old veteran playing out the year. While 2023 hasn’t been a great year for the White Sox, 2024, 2025 and 2026 could be — all with Jiménez as an important piece.

There aren’t many advantages to being out of the race before August. One potential advantage is that a manager can be cautious with playing time with injured players. Knowing that, much of the baseball world found itself critical of Grifol’s postgame comments on Saturday.

To be clear, being out of a playoff race doesn’t automatically mean that stars shouldn’t play. For starters, the Twins are still very much in a playoff race. Managers of non-contending teams will frequently try to put their best team out there when playing a contender. And, there’s something to be said for that.

But it would be hard enough to justify playing Jiménez if the White Sox were contending. They’re not. That makes Grifol’s stance hard to understand — and even harder to defend.

[Daryl Van Schouwen]

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