Jimenez surrenders 1st Major League homer

April 22nd, 2017

MINNEAPOLIS -- , Tigers closer of the present, took a few minutes after Friday's 6-3 loss to the Twins talking with Joe Jimenez, widely regarded as the Tigers' closer of the future. planned to do the same at some point to make sure Jimenez's mind was in the right place after 's three-run homer off him pulled Minnesota ahead.

For most relievers it would sound mundane. But for Jimenez it was just the fifth home run he has surrendered over 147 innings in his pro career after giving up only one over 53 1/3 innings between three levels last season. His first allowed in the Majors came on his fifth batter.

"He's going to give up another home run," manager Brad Ausmus said. "It's not going to be the last home run he gives up. He's going to have to learn to deal with it, come back tomorrow and be ready."

, who has been teammates with Jimenez in Detroit and Toledo since late last summer, has no doubt that he will. He has been around him too much to think otherwise.

"He'll be fine," Hardy said.

Still, it feeds the narrative that not even Jimenez is immune to what seems like the curse of the Tigers' bullpen.

When Jimenez received his first Major League callup a week and a half ago, Ausmus made it clear he wanted to find a low-leverage situation to ease him in. That came in the ninth inning of an 11-5 loss to the Twins at Comerica Park, after which Jimenez was sent down to make room for a long reliever.

This time, with Ausmus searching for ways to bridge the gap between his starters and his late-inning relievers, he brought back Jimenez with a hint that he could get a chance in a big opportunity. With Verlander out in the sixth, the potential tying and go-ahead runs in scoring position and the Tigers needing a strikeout, Ausmus made the call.

"I felt like he was our best option to get a strikeout," Ausmus said.

Jimenez attacked with three fastballs, all at 96 mph or higher. Polanco took the first two for a 1-1 count, then made soft contact on the third. But he got enough of the ball to bloop it into short left for a game-tying single.

It was a soft enough hit that Robbie Grossman, representing the go-ahead run, retreated to second, thinking the ball might be caught.

"It's tough," Hardy said. "You give up a hit like that and you're like, 'Ugh, I really have to get this next guy.'"

Jimenez went after the next guy, Rosario, with a 95-mph offering up and in. Rosario turned on it and drove it out. Jimenez kept his composure, spotting a slider to strike out before inducing a groundout to finish the inning.

"I would hate for him to really overjudge himself or really feel down about what he did today," Verlander said. "That's a tough spot for him to come into. I think he's going to be great for a long time. You can't let this one let you doubt yourself.

"I've seen a lot of really good relievers come in and give up a homer early in their career. Obviously, his stuff plays, man. He's going to be just fine. He's going to be really key for us moving forward."