Jimenez Ready to Seize Opportunity In Pulaski

PULASKI, VA - Juan Jimenez is becoming a solid option out of the bullpen for the Pulaski Yankees. He’s impressed with his ability come on in relief and he's not only getting much needed outs but he's showing some impressive stuff. He’s appeared in six games and has a 4.50 ERA in 14 innings. For Jimenez, however, it hasn’t been an easy road.

Jimenez started his professional career in 2011 playing in the Dominican Summer League but only appeared in two games due to injuries. Jimenez missed the entire 2012 season, but came back in 2013 in the Gulf Coast League. Injuries struck Jimenez again this offseason, as he started dealing with elbow tightness and pain.

“I was just trying to get stronger and get better, because I wasn’t really sure what was going on with it,” Jimenez said through a translator. “I just wanted to work hard to get it back to normal.”

Jimenez was able to work past the injury and get a call-up to Pulaski in late July after a successful return to the Gulf Coast League earlier this season.

“It’s nice when you’re doing what you’re supposed to do and they notice, so they call you up a level,” Jimenez said.

Jimenez is an intriguing pitcher. His velocity and secondary pitches have stood out to pitching coach Justin Pope.

“He’s got a lively fastball and can get it up to 96. He’s got a really good fastball and a good slider too,” Pope said. “It’s a plus major league pitch, and his changeup is coming along quite well too.”

Pulaski Yankees manager Tony Franklin hadn’t seen Jimenez until he was called up to Pulaski, but said his velocity has turned more than a few heads.

“You can’t teach guys how to throw the ball with velocity and life,” Franklin said.

While Jimenez’ fastball reaches 96-97mph, he said he’s usually around 93-94. Jimenez says that he feels almost as comfortable with his slider as he does his fastball, and said his slider is his strikeout pitch.

Pope said that his changeup has come along as well, which is important for young pitchers to develop.

“Even though he may not need it at this level, it’s not about pitching at this level, it’s about pitching in the big leagues and the more pitches you have in the big leagues, the better,” Pope said.

Pope said he saw Jimenez down in the Gulf Coast League a couple years ago but hadn’t seen him since then. He wasn’t sure what to expect once he got to Pulaski this season.

“Sometimes it’s a year to year thing and you never know what you’re going to get,” Pope said.

Pope raved about Jimenez’ potential, saying that when all is said and done, Jimenez could be a consistent starter at the major league level. “His stuff is explosive,” Pope said. “He has a chance to have three above average major league pitches so he can definitely pitch in the big leagues.”

Though Jimenez could be a starter at the next level, he says coming out of the bullpen is working for him right now, especially given his history of injuries lately.

“I’m [getting more] comfortable with the job as a reliever, but as a starter I have a specific day to pitch,” Jimenez said. “As a reliever, you never know when you’ll be called on so as a starter I feel more comfortable because I can get ready and prepare for my start.”

Jimenez and Pope are working on making his delivery more consistent so Jimenez can get the ball down in the zone more. While he's proven he can pitch around some damage in Pulaski, opponents are hitting .295 off of Jimenez.

“There are a few things we’re working on with his delivery and there are a couple things with his slider and changeup that he needs to do like he does with his fastball to stay consistent with those two pitches,” Pope said.

Jimenez has been through a lot in his career, but that hasn’t stopped him from keeping his head up and putting the work in.

“I have a dream that I want to make happen,” Jimenez said. “It may not happen this year, but in the years to come it might if I keep working hard.

“I don’t know when I’ll be called upon, but I’m working as hard as I can,” Jimenez said. “Hopefully the call comes soon.”

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