Lights-out Jimenez selected for All-Star Game

July 8th, 2018

DETROIT -- was optioned back and forth between the Tigers and Triple-A Toledo twice last year. When manager Ron Gardenhire called Jimenez into his office Sunday morning with general manager Al Avila waiting for him, the 23-year-old reliever didn't know what was going on.
Then came the news: Forget the Minors. He's going to the All-Star Game.
"Avila was the one that told me," Jimenez said. "I started crying right away."
That stuck with Gardenhire.
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"He was very happy and very emotional when we told him in this office," Gardenhire said. "Those are good moments. You like those things as a manager and general manager. Now I hope he just relaxes and doesn't try to throw 80,000 miles an hour."
It's not the first time Jimenez has been selected to take part in the All-Star festivities. He pitched in the Futures Game three years ago in Cincinnati, representing the Tigers as their closer of the future.
Jimenez is closing now in Detroit, filling in for injured , but it was his work as a dominant setup man in his first full Major League season that earned him the selection as the Tigers' representative.
"He deserves it," catcher said. "I've said for several weeks now: If he's doing what he's doing in a market like New York or Boston, even L.A., he's all over TV right now. It's really important for him that he's not getting the publicity that he deserves for the type of year that he's having, so I'm glad that finally this will get him some more publicity."
Jimenez has three saves and 13 holds, ranking among the AL's top 10 in the latter, to go with a 4-1 record, but his All-Star resume goes well beyond game results on a rebuilding Tigers squad. He has struck out 46 batters over 41 innings with 35 hits allowed, and his 44 appearances left him two off the AL lead.
"Obviously, after last year and everything I've done in life, it's one of my biggest accomplishments in baseball," Jimenez said. "It's just great to represent the Tigers and all my teammates. Just proud of what's going on right now."
Jimenez has been the most critical part of the Tigers' bullpen, even before moving into the closer's role. He has done so after a rough rookie campaign last year left him shuttling between Detroit and Toledo and struggling to figure out how to translate his Minor League dominance into Major League outs.
"The success he had coming up through the Minors, for lack of a better word, he got humbled basically upon his entry to the big leagues," McCann said. "The hard work he put into the offseason and Spring Training, and even through the year, he's busted his tail. He deserves every bit of success that he has gotten."
After Hurricanes Irma and Maria devastated his native Puerto Rico last year, Jimenez spent the offseason working out with teammate at the Tigers' Spring Training complex in Lakeland, Fla. He reported to camp in better pitching shape, which yielded immediate results. But he also had a better idea how to pitch.
"I was talking to [first-base coach] Ramon Santiago," Jimenez said. "He told me, 'Hey, all the work paid off.'"
Fulmer, a first-time All-Star last year, saw the work Jimenez put in. When he heard about the selection, he talked with Jimenez to let him know what to expect.
"I said, 'Go to all of the events, a lot of parties, but make sure you're dialed in to pitch the All-Star Game,'" Fulmer said. "Obviously I didn't pitch [in the game] last year, but I told him to just have fun, hang out with the players, meet the guys and build relationships with them. On the field, you're playing against them, and I know some of the relationships I built last year, we still kind of smile at each other on the baseball field, talk to each other when I'm not facing them. I told him to have a great time and enjoy every single aspect you can of it."
The manager would rather Jimenez not enjoy it so much that he overthrows.
"We worry about that, getting too excited," Gardenhire acknowledged. "But he seems to be a calm enough kid. I think it'll be really exciting for all Tigers fans if he gets in the ballgame and he gets out on that mound wearing our uniform. Hopefully, he'll get that opportunity to do that. That would be a big deal for everybody in this clubhouse. We're really excited for that young man."
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