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Tigers prospect Eduardo Jimenez suspended 30 days

Lynn Henning
The Detroit News

In a harsh response to a serious act during a brawl last weekend, Tigers pitching prospect Eduardo Jimenez has been suspended 30 days after throwing a baseball at an opposing pitcher during an on-field fracas last Sunday at Dayton, Ohio.

Jimenez pitches for Single A West Michigan and Friday was shelved for a month in action taken by Midwest League officials. Also suspended were Whitecaps shortstop Daniel Pinero (five games) and Whitecaps pitcher Spenser Watkins (one game).

Jimenez, 22, and a right-handed reliever from Cumana, Venezuela, threw the baseball from short range at Dayton Dragons pitcher Jesse Stallings. Jimenez had run onto the field and joined players from both teams in a skirmish precipitated when Pinero stepped on the ankle of Dragons player Jose Siri after Siri stole second base.

In the view of Siri and his Dayton cohorts, Pinero had intentionally stepped on Siri. Siri then shoved Pinero, and benches emptied.

Video of the incident was studied this week and led to Friday’s announcement.

“Obviously, it was unacceptable behavior, and we’re going to work hard to make sure he understands we don’t want anything like this to happen again,” Dave Littlefield, Tigers vice president of player development, said during a Friday phone conversation. “We’re going to have him work on some things and try to become a better person and a better player for it.”

Whitecaps manager Mike Rabelo said Friday he had “serious” talks with the individuals involved, beginning with Jimenez, as well as with his team, which has had an otherwise excellent spring with a 36-17 record.

“Of course I was disappointed,” Rabelo said. “There were a lot of moving parts going on in that mix-up.

After the game, we talked to him, and we talked with Dave (Littlefield) and with David (Chadd, assistant general manager). Then it was a wait-and-see approach by the Tigers as the league reviewed matters. It’s unfortunate, but consequences have to be paid.”

Rabelo said there had been no prior issues with any of the players involved, but it was of no consolation after a brawl that could have injured players.

“It’s out of character for anybody,” Rabelo said. “If you’re a professional baseball player and have aspirations of reaching the major leagues, you don’t do that. He (Jimenez) knows he made a mistake. And I’ve talked with him. This is a learning experience, and we’ll move on. And hopefully, he’ll continue his path to the big leagues.”

Jimenez on Friday was sent to the Tigers’ minor-league headquarters at Lakeland, Fla., where young players are still training in what is known in big-league circles as extended spring training. It precedes assignments to short-season, minor-league outposts where game schedules begin later this month.

In this instance, Jimenez will remain at the Tigertown training ground to work out and pitch in situations that aren’t formal or sanctioned by any league.

Jimenez was having a fine spring for the Whitecaps, with a 1.50 ERA and 1.08 WHIP in 13 games. In 24 innings he had allowed 18 hits, struck out 33 and walked eight.

He missed the 2014 season and much of 2015 because of Tommy John surgery but pitched last season at Single A Connecticut and was generally sharp: 2.70 ERA, 13⅓ innings, 12 hits, 18 strikeouts, with five walks.

Jimenez was signed by the Tigers as a 16-year-old in 2011.

Littlefield said the Sunday night melee, while an example of incidents that can happen at any level in baseball, was particularly concerning to the Tigers because of Jimenez’s serious act. Although the ball was thrown at high speed from 15 feet, Stallings was not hurt.

“It’s always a concern,” Littlefield said, indicating Pinero, too, was at least partially culpable for Sunday’s ruckus. “We don’t condone any of these events. We talk to our players about them — before and after any such incidents. We try to avoid them.

“In the nature of high-level competition, particularly with younger players, sometimes you get irrational acts. I understand it. But we don’t condone it. We try to improve upon that kind of behavior from our players.”

Rabelo said a team collectively had gotten a lesson that in professional baseball things other than win-loss records matter.

“It’s nobody’s fault but our own,” Rabelo said of his team’s Sunday night conduct. “Believe me, we had numerous talks after this event, and we’ll move on.

“Tensions are high even at this level. Everyone’s trying to get to that same place (big leagues), and this is unfortunate.”

Rabelo was asked if enduring lessons had been learned by players at one of the lower-rung, early-entry phases of professional baseball.

“They better be,” said Rabelo, a former Tigers catcher. “I spoke to them, and this is a learning experience for everybody.

“We’re moving on, Dayton’s moving on and, fortunately, nobody got hurt.

“It was handled swiftly, very swiftly by the Tigers, as well as by the league. We’re all going to lose from this, especially Eduardo.”