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Tigers anxious to see how Jimenez reacts to first taste of failure

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News
Detroit Tigers relief pitcher Joe Jimenez reacts to allowing a Tim Anderson home run in the ninth inning Friday night.

Detroit – So far, it’s been the realization of manager Brad Ausmus’ biggest concern about bringing rookie Joe Jimenez to the big leagues this early.

Was he ready to fail?

“It’s always dangerous when you’ve never failed in the minor leagues before you get to the big leagues,” Ausmus said before the Tigers’ game Saturday against the White Sox. “Because you do have to learn to deal with failure. Nobody doesn’t go through a period of failure, and I think it’s better to learn at the minor-league level how to deal with it and how to get through it.

“There is also something to be said for the fact that, even if you do go through it at the minor-league level, failure at the big-league level is different. The microscope is more powerful. There are many more people watching and the impact is greater.”

After being virtually unhittable at every rung of the minor leagues, Jimenez has had a rude awakening at this level. He’s been tagged for six runs and five hits, including two home runs, in 4.1 innings.

Jimenez, though, doesn’t seem to be overwrought by it. He spoke to the media through Tigers interpreter Bryan Loor-Almonte Saturday.

“Ultimately, he is just trying to adapt now to the being in the big leagues,” Loor-Almonte paraphrased. “Just trying to make his adjustments, trying to improve every single day.”

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Jimenez was asked if he was surprised he has been hit as hard as he’s been thus far.

“Obviously, it’s different up here, but he’s still doing the same things he was doing in the minor leagues,” Loor-Almonte said, again translating Jimenez’s Spanish. “All he has to do is make the adjustments, keep working and keep doing what he’s doing. Because situations like this happen, like what happened yesterday.

“He just has to make the right adjustments.”

This is what Ausmus cautioned against when the Tigers initially discussed calling up Jimenez. Ausmus thought it was too soon. He also knew the fan base was clamoring for him, expecting him to be a savior for a battered bullpen, and he wasn’t going to put him in that situation.

“You guys didn’t want to listen to me,” Ausmus said. “It’s just different here. It really is. It’s different pitching at the major-league level against hitters who have been here for years.

“Joe still has a chance to be a very good major-league pitcher.”

To get there, the Tigers believe Jimenez needs to sharpen his secondary pitches, especially the slider. Friday night, he threw 11 straight fastballs when he entered in the ninth inning – giving up a towering two-run home run to Tim Anderson.

“He worked on the slider (Thursday),” Ausmus said. “He’s trying to tighten it up and make it more firm. But he’s just started that process.”

Jimenez had a lot of success at Toledo throwing a slower slider with more of a curveball-type action on it. The Tigers want him to develop a tighter, more firm slider – similar to Justin Verlander’s – that acts more like a cutter.

“He said he’s been working with (pitching coach Rich) Dubee and Brad trying to make it shorter and get more velocity on it,” Loor-Almonte translated. “He didn’t have a problem with his (old slider) but he felt he needed to make an adjustment with it.”

As Ausmus pointed out, big-league hitters aren’t going to be cowed by an upper-90s fastball and a slurvey slider.

“It’s a huge difference, an enormous difference,” Ausmus said of pitching in the big leagues vs. Triple-A. “It’s the biggest jump of any level of the ladder. There is no higher level than this. You don’t get called up from the big leagues to a higher level. Guys have been doing it here, some of them, for a decade.

“They’ve seen Joe Jimenezes come and go, a lot of these guys. That’s why, in order to stick, usually there is one or two, or maybe more, adjustment periods. This is as good as it gets.”

The Tigers seem, for now, content to let Jimenez go through these growing pains at the major-league level. Ausmus said that was not set in stone.

“We’ll see how he does,” he said. “There is that fine line between letting him learn at this level and destroying his confidence at this level.”

Twitter @cmccosky