Detroit Tigers option Joe Jimenez to Triple-A Toledo, finalizing 2021 pitching staff
Because the Tigers had to remove a player from the bullpen after adding lefty Derek Holland, eliminating Jimenez finalizes the 2021 Opening Day pitching staff, with five starters and eight relievers. Jimenez will begin the season at the alternate training site at Fifth Third Field in Toledo before Triple-A games start in May.
"He handled it very professionally, but he was obviously unhappy," Hinch said Saturday. "From the short term, it's a punch in the gut to not make our team out of spring training. The long view is we need to get him back to being a leverage reliever in how he attacks the strike zone and how he attacks hitters."
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Hinch on Friday set his starting rotation: Matthew Boyd, Julio Teheran, Tarik Skubal, Jose Urena and Casey Mize. Now, the bullpen is locked in: Gregory Soto, Buck Farmer, Bryan Garcia, Jose Cisnero, Daniel Norris, Derek Holland, Tyler Alexander and Michael Fulmer.
Soto, Norris, Holland and Alexander are left-handed relievers.
"We want to cover every scenario, long, short and anywhere in between," Hinch said. "This is a very versatile bullpen. We have some guys who can do a lot of different things. It will evolve into having a relatively normal setup on when guys are going to pitch, but the competition continues.
"The fact that I can really go to any guy, and probably Tyler Alexander the most, and ambush them with a different responsibility on a day-to-day basis is a great luxury. I think we have the makings of a very unique bullpen but also a very productive one."
A spot on the 40-man roster still must be cleared for Holland, who came to camp as a non-roster invitee. Also, right-hander Spencer Turnbull is slated to rejoin the starters after he returns from the non-baseball (COVID-19) injured list.
The Tigers this winter avoided an arbitration hearing with Jimenez, bringing him back for the 2021 season on a $1.5 million contract. During spring training, the 26-year-old posted a 5.06 ERA with three walks and six strikeouts in 5⅓ innings across six outings.
"He's a big-league pitcher that has got caught in between how to pitch, how to approach hitters," Hinch said. "Ultimately, he has been inconsistent in getting his outs. ... To get him to being back to a leverage reliever, more time is needed for him to hone his approach."
Last season, his fourth year in the majors, Jimenez finished with a 7.15 ERA. He started the season as the closer but was removed from the role in favor of Garcia. He logged 22 strikeouts and only walked six batters, but he issued 25 hits, 18 earned runs and seven homers in his 22⅔ innings across 25 games.
Jimenez earned an All-Star Game bid in 2018. That year, he had a 4.31 ERA, 78 strikeouts and 22 walks in 62⅔ innings. Two years ago, he finished with a 4.37 ERA, 82 strikeouts and 23 walks through 59⅔ innings.
He made his MLB debut in 2017.
Before Jimenez left the team's spring training facility, he entered Joker Marchant Stadium and sprinted from the left-field foul pole to the right-field foul pole.
"I love the person," Hinch said. "He's going to work tirelessly. I have no doubt about it."