Jimenez returns to Angels on red-eye to replace Nelson
ST. PETERSBURG -- At about 7 p.m. PT, Luis Jimenez was getting ready to play a game for the Salt Lake Bees in Tacoma, Wash. At about 10 p.m., he was boarding a red-eye headed for Tampa International Airport. And shortly after 6 a.m. ET, after connecting through Miami with the last flight out of the Northwest, the 25-year-old third baseman had finally arrived in St. Petersburg to get ready for a game that he would start.
"Not here," Jimenez said. "How can I be tired here? I'm not tired."
Jimenez, groggy or not, was back in the big leagues, called up from Triple-A Salt Lake late Wednesday night because Chris Nelson strained his right hamstring running down the first-base line and may not return this season. And in the Angels' 2-0 win over the Rays, he went 2-for-3 with a double and drove in a run with an RBI single in his first at-bat.
Jimenez -- ranked 11th in the Angels' system by MLB.com -- missed nearly two months with a torn labrum in his right shoulder, suffered while diving back to second base on a pickoff play. He returned to the Triple-A lineup on Aug. 11, after some brief thought that he may be shut down for the rest of the reason, and posted a .261/.293/.391 slash line with one homer over his next 16 games, while mixing in some time at shortstop.
"I was out of everything for like a month and a half, not facing pitchers, no batting practice, no nothing. It's hard," said Jimenez, who won't undergo offseason surgery on the shoulder. "But the last couple of days, I've been picking it up."
Still ripe in Jimenez's mind was the way his last stint in the Majors ended. He made his Major League debut on April 12, filling in for an injured Alberto Callaspo, and hit .333 in his first 12 games. Then the league caught up to him, with Jimenez getting just two hits in his next 27 at-bats while striking out nine times and drawing no walks.
"It's a tough league," Jimenez learned. "You can't just come from nowhere and be a monster."
Jimenez has a chance to make up for that over these next four and a half weeks, while at the same time possibly making a case for a starting role at third base in 2014. The Angels don't have a set third baseman for next year, with Callaspo now with the A's and Grant Green not ready to play the position. And Jimenez -- along with Andrew Romine -- figures to get the majority of the playing time at the hot corner the rest of the way.
"I'm not afraid to do it," said Jimenez, batting eighth in Thursday's series finale. "I'm not going to say I'm going to hit 20 home runs or I'm going to hit .330, but I'm going to do the best I can."