The Tigers placed right-hander Joe Jimenez on the 15-day injured list due to a right lumbar spine strain. Right-hander Angel De Jesus was called up from Triple-A to take Jimenez’s spot on the active roster for the remainder of the regular season.
Jimenez told reporters (including Chris McCosky of The Detroit News) that he has been dealing with the injury for over a month, and he’d been wearing an electronic stimulation device on his back. Yesterday, however, Jimenez said the back pain “felt different and I just said, ’Hey, I’m not going to put the team in a bad position. I’m just going to do everything I can to get back soon.’ ”
While further imaging and tests are inevitable, it doesn’t seem as though the spine strain will keep Jimenez from a relatively normal offseason, or from being ready for Spring Training. That’s good news for both Jimenez and the Tigers, as the 27-year-old (28 in January) looks to build on what has been a career year.
Consistency has been difficult to come by for Jimenez over his six MLB seasons, even though he was an All-Star in 2018. Over 209 1/3 innings from 2017-21, Jimenez posted a 5.72 ERA over 209 1/3 innings out of Detroit’s bullpen, and there was some speculation that the Tigers could even non-tender him last winter.
However, the Tigers’ decision to hang onto Jimenez ended up being one of the best calls of an otherwise rough year in the Motor City. Jimenez posted a 3.49 ERA and an elite 33.3% strikeout rate over 56 2/3 innings in 2022, as well as plenty of other Statcast metrics that were well above the league average. That 3.49 ERA undersold Jimenez’s dominance, as he had a 2.30 SIERA and 2.70 xFIP. Four of Jimenez’s 22 earned runs were allowed over his last two outings, likely due to his increased back pain.
Between these numbers and Jimenez also being arbitration-controlled through the 2023 season, there was lots of interest in Jimenez heading into the trade deadline, but no teams met the Tigers’ reportedly high asking price. With Scott Harris now installed as Detroit’s president of baseball operations, it is possible Harris could revisit the trade market and explore selling high on Jimenez, assuming that rival teams aren’t wary of the spine strain. Or, the Tigers could simply hang onto Jimenez and hope that he can again help a bullpen that was the team’s only real strength this past season.
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