Joe Jimenez couldn't spend his offseason at home getting ready for Spring Training. So he turned the Tigers' Spring Training home in Lakeland, Fla., into a winter training base.It was his way of making the best out of a tragic situation in his native Puerto Rico."My plans had been to
Joe Jimenez couldn't spend his offseason at home getting ready for Spring Training. So he turned the Tigers' Spring Training home in Lakeland, Fla., into a winter training base.
It was his way of making the best out of a tragic situation in his native Puerto Rico.
"My plans had been to go to Puerto Rico after the Major League season ended," Jimenez said at last weekend's Major League Rookie Career Development Program. "Obviously because of the hurricane, I wasn't able to get there. I did go to Puerto Rico in December to visit my family and see how things were there. Obviously, things are still difficult there. There still isn't enough help for the whole country, but little by little it's getting better. I think that in the next few months it's going to be better."
Jimenez was born in San Juan and makes his home in nearby Bayamon. When Hurricane Maria struck in September, his family was unharmed, but their area faced so much devastation that they flew to Texas to stay with his brother, A.J., a catcher in the Rangers system. He planned to spend some time with them, but also needed a place to train for next season.
He ended up in Lakeland, where the renovations at Joker Marchant Stadium and Tigertown included a massive weight room and training center.
"I've been training there all offseason, spending the majority of my time in the camp in Lakeland," Jimenez said. "For me, it's been really good. We've got practically everything there that we need to train, and the Detroit coaches are there as well. They're the ones that have helped me the most during the offseason. For me it's been really good, because I have everything I need, and everything they know I need, I've got it there."
The workouts have helped him put a frustrating stretch run in the past and focus on claiming a role in the 2018 bullpen. After a couple cups of coffee in the big leagues in April, Jimenez was called up for good following Justin Wilson's trade to the Cubs at the end of July. He showed flashes of the dominant form that earned him the unofficial title of Tigers closer of the future as he made his way up the organizational ladder, but he also showed the inexperience of a 22-year-old who had largely dominated hitters in the Minor Leagues with his fastball.
Jimenez yielded 26 earned runs on 31 hits over 19 innings for the season, walking nine and striking out 17. Fifteen of those runs came in four outings in August and September. Jimenez had more than twice as many outings with multiple runs allowed (eight) than he had one-run appearances (three).
"Obviously 2017 was a learning year for me," Jimenez said. "It was my first year in the Major Leagues, and I was able to spend time with great players in Detroit who taught me a lot. They taught me a lot about how to live in the Major League atmosphere and how to be around them day by day, how they work day by day. I think that's what I'm going to take with me for 2018. …
"All the expectations I have is to be the best pitcher I can be, to help the team."
Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and Facebook.