Joe Jimenez's learning curve continues with Detroit Tigers

Anthony Fenech
Detroit Free Press
Detroit Tigers' Joe Jiminez pitches during an exhibition game against Florida Southern at Joker Marchant Stadium in Lakeland, Fla. on Monday, Feb. 29, 2016.

He spoke as confidently as he could after another bad outing, with conviction, and -- for the first time this season -- without the help of a team translator.

If Joe Jimenez were back in the minor leagues, he wouldn’t have to answer these questions, on a night the Detroit Tigers were again throttled in an early September game that seemed more like spring training.

But the biggest question that came from Wednesday night’s loss to the Royals was this: What’s happened with Jimenez?

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The rookie right-handed reliever was knocked around again, chased after allowing five hits and recording one out in the top of the eighth inning. His fastball velocity sat in the 94-95 m.p.h. range, which seems a tick or two slower than normal.

“That’s the least that I’m worrying about right now,” he said.

Jimenez said he was fully healthy and that location was his biggest issue.

There were two singles, a flyout to rightfield, a double, and two more singles before Ausmus couldn’t let it continue.

“You don’t want his confidence to be broken,” Ausmus said. “There’s a number of guys that applies to. You can’t protect everyone. So, at some point, you do have to make an adjustment. I think Joe’s a pretty confident kid, quite frankly. My gut says he’ll be fine.”

It’s possible his confidence is shaken, because he hasn’t had success at this level yet. He has posted a 12.53 ERA in 17 appearances. He arrived in the Major Leagues after tearing up the minor leagues for the past two seasons and is experiencing his first failures in the biggest stadiums. But as a big enough part of the Tigers’ future bullpen, they will keep running him out there when their September games serve as Major League spring training of sorts.

“I’m learning,” he said. “I’m learning every day when I go out there and in the different situations that I’m getting in.”

As is the vast majority of the Tigers’ bullpen. And Jimenez’s past performances carry more promise for the future than any of the others, so they will continue letting him learn on the job.

Perhaps it’s a young pitcher learning the lesson of not throwing too many pitches over the plate: Of his 19 pitches thrown on Wednesday night, 14 were for strikes.

“I feel good,” he said. “But obviously the results aren’t there.”

Contact Anthony Fenech: afenech@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @anthonyfenech.