“It’s on us to try not to do too much” to make up for losing a force in lineup, Yoan Moncada said.
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — The loss of Eloy Jimenez’ bat in the middle of the White Sox lineup is hard to quantify. In any event, it’s huge, even for batting order that doesn’t lack for depth.
Jimenez seemed primed to be that good.
“Eloy is tied for first with the best productive hitter we have on the team. How do you replace him?” manager Tony La Russa said.
Jimenez was set to bat fifth behind Yoan Moncada in La Russa’s lineup, and not having him there might cut into the number of good pitches Moncada sees, although Yasmani Grandal is no slouch, Moncada said, as protection. The temptation to put more on his broad shoulders must be resisted, though, Moncada said Saturday.
“Eloy is a big part of this team. He’s one of our keys. We are going to miss him. I wish him the best,” Moncada said through translator Billy Russo. “But you know what? We all have to do our job.
“It’s on us to try not to do too much. We have to [hit] to our capabilities.”
Moncada felt good about a 3-4-5 punch of MVP Jose Abreu, himself and Jimenez. What wasn’t to like? Grandal, like Moncada a switch-hitter who ranks second among catchers in homers, extra-base hits and total bases and first in RBI since 2016, will have to suffice if it’s him.
“Grandal knows how to do his job too,” Moncada said. “Whoever is the person who is going to hit behind me, I’m going to get good protection. I’m not concerned about that.”
Moncada, 100 percent healthy after battling through the effects of the coronavirus last season, has reached base in 17 consecutive Cactus League games. He tripled, doubled and singled against the Rockies Saturday, raising his spring hitting line to .333/.448/.583 with seven doubles, a homer and double.
La Russa praised Moncada’s work habits and his desire to play Saturday after fouling a pitch off his leg Friday.
“It ells a lot about where his head is and it’s in a great place for us,” La Russa said.
“He’s locked in.”
Leury Garcia was slated to start in left field but was scratched for precautionary reasons for general shoulder soreness. Billy Hamilton started in his place.
If a decision between Hamilton and Nick Williams for a roster spot, “it will be a very tough call,” La Russa said.
“They both showed what they can do, both have played very well,” La Russa said.
“But Billy has put on a show himself.”
Hamilton, 33, who has 305 career stolen bases, is a light hitter (3-for-18 this spring with eight walks) but he brings energy and speed in the outfield and has been a nuisance on the basepaths.
La Russa said Andrew Vaughn, who did not play Saturday, is more than a possibility to see time in left field.
“He’s such a strong individual between the ears that he’s ready to do it,” La Russa said. “[Friday] they hit him one [fly] ball, he timed and he caught it routine like it was. I think it’s definitely an option.”