Tigers bullpen: Top prospect Joe Jimenez called up, Bruce Rondon sent down

Top bullpen prospect Joe Jimenez called up from Triple-A

Denis Poroy/Getty Images
Denis Poroy/Getty Images

DETROIT – The Detroit Tigers have called up top relief pitching prospect Joe Jimenez to join the major league bullpen, the team announced Monday.

Flamethrower Bruce Rondon, who struggled again on Sunday against the Boston Red Sox, was sent down to Triple-A Toledo.

Jimenez is widely considered the best relief pitcher in the Tigers' organization, especially after solid performances in the World Baseball Classic and spring training during the offseason.

In 53.2 innings last season between Lakeland, Erie and Toledo in the Tigers' minor league system, Jimenez struck out 78 batters and allowed just nine runs. He had a WHIP of 0.808 and picked up 30 saves.

Jimenez is the favorite to become the team's future closer. He will wear jersey No. 46 in Detroit, the Tigers announced.

Rondon was tabbed as the Tigers' eighth-inning pitcher after spring training, and Brad Ausmus gave him three opportunities in the first week. After a scoreless inning in Chicago, Rondon gave up three runs in both appearances against the Red Sox, getting a total of one out.

As a player with a growing history of missing the strike zone and leaving fastballs over the plate, Rondon's first-week struggles were enough to trigger Jimenez's call up.

Jimenez is the Tigers' No. 5 overall prospect after signing as an undrafted free agent in 2013. His calling card is an electric fastball that sits in the upper 90s and tops out around 98 mph. He also throws a good slider that generated plenty of swings and misses in the minor leagues.

The changeup is a work in progress, but Jimenez is only 22, and it appears that the pitch has a chance to be a third weapon in his arsenal. That will be a major factor as the rookie looks for a way to dominate left-handed hitters.

Control hasn't been a problem for Jimenez in his professional career, even as a power pitcher. If he can stay away from walks, he should be an effective reliever for the Tigers right away.

Ausmus said Justin Wilson, who is off to a good start in 2017, will take over the eighth inning for the Tigers. Jimenez is expected to be used in different situations to begin his major league career.