CHICAGO – After missing almost three months of the regular season, Jon Jay returned to an already crowded White Sox outfield last week.
After an 0 for 2 first game back June 24, the 34-year-old outfielder proceeded to collect at least one hit and knock in one run in each of his next five games. The Sox currently carry six outfielders, and Jay is the only one in his 30s.
“[I’m] just trying to lead by example, trying to set a good example,” Jay said. “Like people have done before me. I don’t do that vocally, just by my actions.”
Jay went on the injured list in March after suffering a groin injury late in spring training. The 10-year veteran missed 75 games.
He signed a one-year, $4 million contract with the Sox over the offseason. There was speculation that the Sox signed Jay and first baseman Yonder Alonso as a way to lure free agent Manny Machado to Chicago. Jay is close friends with Machado, and Alonso is Machado’s brother-in-law.
Machado, of course, instead signed a 10-year, $300 million deal with the San Diego Padres. After Jay made his Sox debut, the Jay and Alonso era lasted all of three days.
Alonso played his last game for the Sox on June 26. The team designated him for assignment days later.
Jay has proved a productive addition to the lineup. Manager Rick Renteria has been slotting him into the
No. 5 spot in the batting order.
“It’s nice to be able to go out there and do what I love to do, which is go out and compete,” Jay said. “I’ve been enjoying that the last week here, and I look forward to being able to continue to do that.”
Jay’s addition has made for a crowded outfield. That means fewer opportunities for the likes of Ryan Cordell, Charlie Tilson and recently called up Daniel Palka.
With Tim Anderson currently on the injured list, outfielder Leury Garcia has been spending more time at shortstop. When Anderson returns, one of the Sox’s outfielders likely will be sent down.
Tilson, a Winnetka native, said he followed Jay when he was coming up through the St. Louis Cardinals’ minor league system.
“Having JJ back is big,” Tilson said. “I admired him when I was coming up with St. Louis. To be in the same big-league clubhouse alongside of him is pretty cool for me. [He’s] a great veteran to have in the clubhouse.”
Jay has enjoyed working with the young outfielders in Chicago.
“It definitely brings confidence when you see guys that are putting in work every day, doing it the right way, being recognized for the work that they’re doing,” Jay said. “That spreads a good message to the clubhouse.”