Gimenez Readying for Next Opportunity

After playing 24 games for the Rays early in the season while Jose Lobaton was on the disabled list, Durham catcher Chris Gimenez is patiently waiting for his next chance to prove himself in the big leagues. Despite a less-than-ideal showing in his first stint with the big club, Gimenez is optimistic that he'll get the call again and is making sure he is ready should the opportunity arise again.

You have worked hard, trained, and proven yourself worthy to advance to the top of your profession. Yet, when you get to the top, you fail to find that groove and that same success and find yourself demoted once again—set to bear the gauntlet of re-finding your game and repeating your climb to the top.

This aggravating process reflects the story of catcher Chris Gimenez, but by talking to him you would never know it. Packing his navy-blue duffel bag as he prepares to grind out another minor league road trip, his demeanor remains one of the most upbeat in the clubhouse while chatting with teammates and reporters.

The 7-year minor league veteran is hitting .308 on the season with one home run and 10 RBI, and is in the top six of his team in slugging and on-base percentage despite missing seven days on the DL in April. However, the time he has spent in the majors doesn't quite echo that of a solid prospect, as he has gone 52-for-296 (.176) with 5 HR and 25 RBI over four years with three different teams.

But Gimenez remains undeterred and realistic about his ascent back to the majors, focusing on making each trip to the plate count.

"For me it's just working my at-bats and having good ones as often as I can," he said. "You just have to put yourself in a good position to where if they do have a need up there your name is in consideration to be called on."

Putting himself in that position means producing at the plate which, if this month is any indicator, is coming more and more easily. The 29-year old California native is on a 6-game hit streak and has produced six of his RBI this season within the last week. However, his manager knows that it's going to take consistency and a little more power—his .431 slugging percentage lies just outside the International League top 20—for Gimenez to really make a name for himself.

"Right now if somebody gets hurt he's the catcher going up, so that's a good spot to be," said Bulls skipper Charlie Montoyo. "He's doing ok at the plate, nothing great yet, but he's got potential."

Gimenez thinks that the key to his improvement lies in his vision at the plate and focusing on "tightening the strike zone back up again."

"At the plate I'm working on my pitch recognition—I've gotten into a little streak here where I started swinging at pitches I shouldn't have been swinging at. Production is definitely coming along in the fact that I'm bringing the ball back up to my zone."

And although he's been the catcher 70 out of the 121 major league games he's appeared in, Gimenez has even been tried out at third base twice this season in Durham. He said the two positions are similar in that "you don't very often get those balls that are nice and easy—it's either crushed right at you or you have to charge it. And in the worst case scenario you just have to take it off the chest and get up and throw it to first."

From the hot corner to the backstop, Chris Gimenez has shown that he has the potential to be a force in the Rays organization. But one thing's for sure, wherever his journey in baseball takes him, he's ready to take it like a line drive or a fastball off the chest and work to make a name for himself.

Ben Christoph is the Durham beat writer for Rays Digest. You can follow him on Twitter at @btchristoph


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