Being tabbed "closer of the future" doesn't carry quite the same doom and gloom as the Madden curse, but the number of those who have succeeded is a short list. Joe Jimenez is being groomed for ninth-inning duties, picking up saves at every level since he started in rookie ball in 2013 at the tender age of 18. The fire-balling rookie had a rather inauspicious major-league debut in 2017, recording an unsightly 12.32 ERA and 2.11 WHIP in 19 innings for the Tigers. Jimenez surrendered 15 of his 26 earned runs allowed in just four efforts. In the other 20 appearances, Jimenez recorded a still poor but more palatable 4.86 ERA and 1.40 WHIP. Obviously, Jimenez is still a work in progress, but fanning 241 with only 52 walks in 167.1 minor-league innings portends patience yielding a fruitful payoff. With Detroit in rebuilding mode, stashing Jimenez has potential long-term rewards, and who knows -- short-term benefits aren't out of the question.
Jimenez lost weight in the offseason and worked on developing a more repeatable, consistent delivery, Jason Beck of MLB.com reports. After posting a 12.32 ERA and 2.11 WHIP in 19 innings at the MLB level last season, Jimenez looks like a new pitcher in spring training. Through five innings of work, he hasn't allowed an earned run and has struck out eight. "I feel a lot better now," Jimenez said. "Just mechanically, my arm feels good. Everything just seems right." Of course, spring training success doesn't always carry over into the regular season, but it's at least a positive sign that the 23-year-old could take a step forward this year.
Jimenez, who has not allowed an earned run in five innings of work this spring, is making a good impression on manager Ron Gardenhire, Chris McCosky of The Detroit News reports. Jimenez has good stuff, but he struggled mightily last season, posting a 12.32 ERA and 2.11 WHIP in 19 innings. The 23-year-old has made offseason changes to his slider grip, and so far he looks good in camp. "Really good," Gardenhire said of Jimenez's form so far. "The ball is jumping out of his hand. When he's throwing it over the plate like that, attacking the hitter, putting them in a hole, he can be very good." Shane Greene will be Detroit's closer in 2018, but Jimenez could be the closer of the future.
Jimenez has made adjustments to his slider grip and has been getting more movement on the pitch this spring, Chris McCosky of The Detroit News reports. Tigers pitching coach Chris Bosio didn't tinker with Jimenez's arm action but he did suggest a new grip, which the 23-year-old righty has been incorporating during spring training. Jimenez said the change has given the pitch more right-to-left action. "It's doing a lot to set up hitters," he said. "Before it was more like a three to nine (hands on a clock) movement. Now it's more one to seven." Jimenez struggled mightily last season, posting a 12.32 ERA and 2.11 WHIP in 19 innings, but he has the stuff to be a dynamic late-inning reliever. The rebuilding Tigers will likely give him plenty of opportunities this season to figure things out at the MLB level.
Jimenez struck out the side in Thursday's exhibition against Florida Southern. He followed starter Alex Wilson into the game Thursday, pitching a cleaning inning on a day in which the Tigers racked up 18 strikeouts against their collegiate opponent. Jimenez has an opportunity to secure a high-leverage role for the Tigers this spring.
Jimenez pitched a scoreless inning in Wednesday's loss to the Athletics, allowing one hit and striking out two. Jimenez has now gone two straight appearances without allowing a run. While that doesn't sound like much, it's a step in the right direction for a guy with an 11.94 ERA and 2.19 WHIP. Jimenez has electric stuff, and the Tigers organization is hoping he learns to harness it effectively. The 22-year-old should get a few more appearances before the season is over as the team looks toward 2018.