Tigers' Joe Jimenez on a mission to refashion his body, game

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News

Orlando, Fla. — Tigers director of player development David Littlefield has been spending time at TigerTown monitoring the offseason work of some of the club’s younger players. And he offered an encouraging report on right-handed reliever Joe Jimenez.

“He’s in Lakeland, he’s staying in Lakeland and he’s lost 20 to 25 pounds,” Littlefield said Tuesday. “He looks in great shape. He’s going to go back to Puerto Rico for the holidays and then come back in January.”

Jimenez, who will turn 23 in January, endured the first prolonged stretch of failure of his baseball life last season. In 24 games at the big-league level, Jimenez was tagged for 26 earned runs in 19 innings, including four home runs.

“Sometimes players have wake-up calls,” general manager Al Avila said. “When you are young, you don’t look at it like you are in any big need of, ‘Hey, I have to lose weight or I have to get stronger.’ You are out there throwing BBs and getting outs and riding that high.

“But then you hit a wall and you think, ‘Maybe I do have to change.’”

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The Tigers put Jimenez on a weight and conditioning program immediately after the season. They also put him on a nutritional plan. His weight last season was listed at 220, but, especially later in the year, he far exceeded that.

“He was at a point where he was concerned,” Avila said. “And we told him, ‘If you are going to continue to progress and get better as a baseball player, you have to be sure you watch your weight and your health and your athleticism.’

“We put him on a program and he followed it to a T.”

Jimenez, who bolted through the Tigers farm system on the strength of an electric, upper-90s fastball, had difficulty with both his velocity and his command in stretches last season.

“It was a combination of things and with a young player, it can change from month to month,” Avila said. “With him, there were some mechanical things that needed to be adjusted and I don’t think we ever got him on the right track from a mechanics point of view. That was the biggest issue for me.”

The extra weight on Jimenez, for the most part, wasn’t flab. It was muscle mass, especially in his legs. But the Tigers strength and conditioning team felt he was too bulky and was losing some of his athleticism, which was impacting his ability to repeat his delivery.

“Our strength and conditioning guys felt losing weight would help him perform better, athletically speaking,” Avila said. “Just in terms of mechanics and release point and being able to repeat.”

Avila stressed that Jimenez didn’t get lazy. His work ethic is one of his best assets.

“He’s got a great makeup from the sense that he works, he listens and he’s got the ability to do it,” Avila said. “It’s all in his hands right now.”

Twitter.com: @cmccosky