Cards' Jimenez: 'I love to see guys improve'

Venezuelan native, Triple-A hitting coach has been in St. Louis' system since '07

August 17th, 2019

CINCINNATI -- There are always exciting stories of Minor League players receiving their first callup to the big leagues, but sometimes coaches get that phone call, too. And the emotions that come along with it is sometimes just as special.

In Jobel Jimenez’s case, he found out he was going to be the Cardinals' new assistant hitting coach Monday, when Cardinals farm director Gary LaRocque called him to tell him that Randy Arozarena was being promoted to the Majors.

“Be ready, because you’re going to fly with him,” Jimenez remembers LaRocque saying.

“I was like, ‘What do you mean? I’m flying with Randy?’” Jimenez said. “They said, ‘Pack your stuff and be ready, because you’re flying at 5 o’clock to go to the big leagues. You’re going to be the new assistant hitting coach.’ I couldn’t even imagine it. My mind started running fast. It was great.”

Jimenez, 44, replaced Mark Budaska, who was dismissed Monday by Cardinals manager Mike Shildt. Jimenez has been in the Cardinals' organization for the majority of the past 12 years, starting in 2007 as the hitting coach of the club's Venezuelan Summer League team. He’s moved his way up through the Minor League system, and he was in his first season with Memphis after spending two years with Double-A Springfield from '17-18.

Jimenez has worked with many of the Cardinals' hitters during their time in the Minor Leagues, most recently Arozarena, Tommy Edman and Lane Thomas.

“I remember when I first came up to Springfield in 2017, I struggled a little bit, and he helped me get back on track,” Edman said of Jimenez. “It’s great having a guy who you know is always going to be in your corner. ... He knows my swing really well at this point, having seen it for a couple of years. I’m really excited that he’s here.”

Edman said that Jimenez has helped him when his swing is too big and he helps hitters simplify all the information that they receive on scouting reports and analytics. That way, when game time comes, the hitters will be able to just focus on the competition.

“He’s open to new ideas,” Edman said. “I think he’s going to mesh well with [hitting coach] Jeff [Albert], and he’s given me some advice in the past that has really clicked with me and that I continue to use today.”

One of the reasons for the dismissal of Budaska was because of the differences between him and Albert, who heavily leans into the analytics of hitting. Jimenez said that he’s “100 percent” comfortable with Albert and already has enjoyed working with him.

“What we’re trying to do is be on the same page,” Jimenez said. “As soon as we go to the cage, we try to send the same message. If we’re not on the same page, players get confused. That’s why we prepare everything together before they show up to the field, and I think, for that reason, it’ll work better.”

A native Venezuelan, Jimenez played two years in the Dodgers' system in 1993-94 before becoming a scout and outfield instructor for the club. He moved to the Mariners and then the Red Sox, where he coached winter ball in Venezuela in the early 2000s before latching on with the Cardinals. He’ll be the hitting coach for the Venezuelan national team during the Premier 12 tournament in Taiwan this offseason.

Jimenez helped the Cardinals in September last season after the Double-A season ended, but this time around, he has way more work to do, he said. But he’s not taking his time in the big leagues for granted.

“When you play this game, you train and are like, ‘I’m going to be in the big leagues as a player,’” Jimenez said. “But for some reasons, you might not have that kind of opportunity. I have the privilege to be in the game as a coach, so now my dream was still to be in the big leagues at some point.

“I was working and trying to be better and trying to help the guys, but I don’t think about, ‘I’m going to do this and try to get to the big leagues.’ It’s more, ‘I’m going to do this because I love my job. I love what I’m doing. I love to see the guys improve.’

Gomber faces hitters

Left-hander Austin Gomber (left bicep injury) took a step toward a potential return this year when he threw live batting practice Saturday. Gomber had faced shoulder fatigue last month that prevented him from continuing his throwing program, but that has disappeared and the reports were positive, Shildt said.

“Velocity around 89-91 mph,” Shildt said. “Good to see him back on the mound.”

Gomber will throw another live batting practice in three or four days. The Cardinals still hope to see his return by the end of the season, likely out of the bullpen for the postseason push.

Robinson out for the year

Triple-A Memphis utility man Drew Robinson had a “progressive” Tommy John surgery on his left elbow Thursday, ending his season after he was put on the Memphis injured list on June 26. It wasn’t a full Tommy John repair, making Robinson’s return likely by the start of Spring Training next season, Shildt said.

Robinson bats left-handed but throws right-handed, so having the surgery on his left elbow will help speed up the recovery time, along with the fact that it wasn’t a full repair.

“I texted with him yesterday. All reports from surgery were very positive,” Shildt said. “He’s expected to make a full recovery, ready to go at the beginning of camp next year.”