Joe Jimenez has pitched poorly in his first few appearances with the Detroit Tigers. What is the problem with the struggling rookie?

The Detroit Tigers have been really excited about Joe Jimenez. The Tigers top-10 prospect had been nothing short of spectacular in AAA-Toledo this season. Yet, in the major leagues, the 22 year old has been absolutely awful. What is the greatest problem for the young pitcher?

Jimenez served as a setup man and a closer in Toledo this season, and he exceeded expectations. In the minors this year, he had a 1.38 ERA with 37 K’s in 26 IP. Along with that, Jimenez was 4-5 in save opportunities. He also only gave up 4 runs all year in the minors. Why hasn’t this translated to the big leagues?

The biggest problem is the Detroit Tigers’ manager Brad Ausmus. Brad continually is putting Jimenez in a situation to fail. Jimenez has appeared in 7 games this season, and in 4 of those times, Ausmus has made major mistakes in using him.

Jimenez’s Performances

Jimenez’s SECOND performance in the majors was on April 21st. Ausmus’s first mistake was putting Jimenez into the game in the 6th inning. Jimenez is a late game reliever, NOT a middle of the game pitcher. So, Jimenez was already out of his comfort zone. On top of that, Jimenez hadn’t pitched since April 13th, 8 days earlier. Also, there were runners on 2nd and 3rd, and the Twins had just tied the game moments earlier. The result: Jimenez gave up a bloop single and then a 3-run shot. The Tigers lost the game in part to Jimenez’s performance.

Two night later, Jimenez pitched in the bottom of the ninth when the Tigers were blowing out the Twins. He pitched a 1-2-3 inning.

After another day off, Jimenez pitched against the Mariners in another blowout game. He got two quick outs, but then walked two straight. With an 12 run lead, Ausmus decided to pull Jimenez at this point. Then Blaine Hardy came in and gave up two straight hits that scored Jimenez’s two base runners. Why would you not leave the young pitcher in for experience in a meaningless inning?

On April 28th Jimenez pitched in the top of the 9th while trailing by 1. Setup men and closers typically do not perform well when they aren’t in a situation to win the game. Guess what? Jimenez gave up a base hit, and then a 2 run shot. Again the Tigers ended up taking the L, and the blame was widely placed on Jimenez.

Now, Jimenez didn’t pitch well and in part that is his fault. But, the kid is only 22 years old, and Ausmus put him in situations to fail. So after a tough April, the front office moved him back to AAA.

The Return

After some extra time in Toledo, the youngster was called back up to Detroit on July 28th. However, he would not be seen in a game until August 5th against the Baltimore Orioles. Again Ausmus put this rookie pitcher into a high pressure situation after A WEEK of not pitching. What happened? He gave up a homer that gave the O’s the lead. The Tigers lost 6-3.

A better alternative would have been to ease the kid into the majors, when the Detroit Tigers had a 4 run lead just 2 days earlier. Instead, Ausmus pitched Edward Mujica, a 33 year old veteran who was just called up. Mujica gave up a run and gave the O’s a chance before Shane Greene closed the door in the 9th, with the Tigers winning 7-4.

Instead of giving the kid a break and a chance to regroup, Ausmus put Jimenez in the very next day. Jimenez came into the game in the bottom of the 7th with a runner on first. The Tigers trailed 8-1. That makes this a late game situation and a low-pressure situation, which is great. What happened? Jimenez got out of the inning getting 2 straight outs.

Great job by both Jimenez and Ausmus right? Wrong! Instead, Jimenez returned to the game in the 8th, and gave up 3 consecutive hits. Ausmus went to the mound, BUT DID NOT PULL HIM. At this point his confidence was shot, and he knew he did not have his stuff working for him anymore.

Jimenez gave up a 2 RBI single, and was pulled. Then, Warwick Saupold came in and gave up the remaining runners Jimenez had left on base. Therefore, Jimenez got 4 more earned runs, giving him a 17.47 ERA.

What Jimenez can do better.

Now it isn’t all Ausmus’ fault. Although he has put Jimenez in situations to fail, Jimenez still hasn’t been good. He looks nervous out on the mound, and he often starts slow on batters. When Jimenez is behind in the count, his ERA is 45.00. However, when he is ahead in the count he has only given up 4 hits and 3 ER. He needs to have more command, and hit the strike zone more often and earlier in counts.

This would also lower his pitch count, and allow him to pitch more innings. Currently in 5.2 inning, Jimenez has thrown 132 pitches. That is roughly 24 pitches per inning.

Boneheaded managerial decisions is exactly why Ausmus cannot be trusted in the rebuild of this team. He consistently put Jimenez in games he shouldn’t have been in, and there is sure to be more where that came from. The Tigers need to find a better option to help young player gain confidence instead of hurting them.

The best thing Jimenez can do is relax and throw the ball the way he knows how to. He has dominated in AAA, and if he brings that confidence to the majors he will be a top reliever for the Tigers very soon.