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Rodriguez emerging as mentor in Detroit 'pen

Special to MLB.com

When rookie reliever Joe Jimenez gave up a home run in late relief against the White Sox on Friday, he knew he'd hear about it from Francisco Rodriguez. Not because Rodriguez was going to chew him out, but because the veteran closer talks to Jimenez after every outing to offer advice.

Since Jimenez has been up in the Majors, K-Rod has been a mentor to him, Jimenez said through a translator. It's important for him to hear from someone like the 35-year-old Rodriguez, who is the MLB's active leader in saves with 436, because Jimenez never truly struggled in the Minors.

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When rookie reliever Joe Jimenez gave up a home run in late relief against the White Sox on Friday, he knew he'd hear about it from Francisco Rodriguez. Not because Rodriguez was going to chew him out, but because the veteran closer talks to Jimenez after every outing to offer advice.

Since Jimenez has been up in the Majors, K-Rod has been a mentor to him, Jimenez said through a translator. It's important for him to hear from someone like the 35-year-old Rodriguez, who is the MLB's active leader in saves with 436, because Jimenez never truly struggled in the Minors.

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Jimenez optioned to Triple-A Toledo

"It's always dangerous when you've never failed at the Minor Leagues and you get to the big leagues," Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said of Jimenez, who pitched five scoreless innings at Triple-AToledo this season and held a 1.51 ERA in 53 2/3 innings across three Minor League levels in 2016.

With Detroit, Jimenez has allowed two earned runs three times in five appearances. But as he works on tightening his slider and adjusting to Major League hitters, he has a clubhouse full of guys to lean on -- starting with K-Rod.

"Frankie's huge with that," reliever Justin Wilson said. "Super smart and sees a lot more than a lot of other people."

Wilson entered Saturday as the Tigers' top gun in an otherwise struggling bullpen -- before he allowed his first hits and runs of the season to take the loss in Detroit's 6-4 defeat against the White Sox. He said the players rely on one another not just to see adjustments that should be made on the mound, but also to pick each other up and provide encouragement.

The question of who needs a pat on the back and who needs his space is answered on a case-by-case basis.

"Some guys, you really don't have to worry about," said catcher Alex Avila, a nine-year MLB vet. "They understand that [failure] is part of the game. But at times, it doesn't hurt to remind each other how good each other are and to keep that confidence level up."

As a whole, the bullpen is still seeking confidence and success. Detroit's relief corps ranks last in MLB in ERA (6.78), opponents batting average (.290) and WHIP (1.75). Those figures are perhaps magnified because the Tigers' most recent opponents, the White Sox, rank first in all those categories.

Amid a four-game losing skid, Wilson knows his team's fortune -- in the bullpen and in the final score -- can be turned around quickly. Supporting one another is just the beginning of that.

"We're going to be just fine," he said. "We've had some tough luck here and there, but it is what it is. It can change in a heartbeat."

Jordan Horrobin is a reporter for MLB.com based in Detroit.

Detroit Tigers, Francisco Rodriguez