Former Tiger Jones: Prospect Jimenez 'special'

Former Tiger Jones: Prospect Jimenez 'special'

DETROIT -- Todd Jones returned to Comerica Park this weekend as a former closer, part of the Tigers' season-long 10th anniversary celebration of their 2006 American League title. But he also had some select words about the man many regard as the Tigers' future closer.

Todd Jones has worked for the Tigers this season as a roving instructor in charge of relief pitching, including No. 5 Tigers prospect, per, Joe Jimenez. He has been particularly impressed.

It's not just the power fastball that wows Jones, but everything that comes before it.

"He's a special, special guy," Jones said. "Just a great guy as far as being prepared, being ready to pitch. He keeps a log of the game as it's going so he can pay attention to the game, which is unheard of for a Double-A guy who throws 95-100 [mph]. Those guys usually don't prepare a lot. I think he's got a chance to be pretty significant up here."

Jones is filling a unique role for the Tigers. They have plenty of pitching instructors, but they didn't have anyone specifically tuned to a reliever's mentality. With the organization focused on developing its own relievers, that took on particular importance.

Few understand that better than Jones, who remembers not only his 319 career saves but the games he couldn't finish, and the sleep he lost dwelling on them. Over 16 Major League seasons, he found the middle ground between the two mental extremes.

"That's really kind of all I try to do," he said. "I'm like a coach/psychologist type. I've been every one of those guys in the bullpen, and I've pitched really well, and I've also stunk. And I can help them get through the ups and downs of good outings and bad outings and be able to interject, 'The sun will come out tomorrow,' or 'Hey, you're not that good,' that type of stuff to help get rid of the peaks and the valleys so they can stay in the middle.

"I really enjoy doing that, and the guys, I think, at least look at me like they're paying attention. I don't really know if any of it's sinking in, but really what I want to do is just kind of help them figure out who they are as a pitcher. Because that will help them when they get here, to be able to fall back on things that they're good at or not, and grow from there."

So far, Jimenez has experienced overwhelming success, though he had a couple bad nights at Double-A Erie. The Tigers promoted Jimenez to Triple-A Toledo after Thursday's save, but Jones believes the 21-year-old is ready for the test.

"Most pitchers with really good talent, it's really not about the hitters," Jones said. "It's really just about them being more consistent with their pitches. Joe has a tendency to want to try to throw harder and want to make each slider better than the last slider. If he can realize that you don't have to do anything different at each level you move up, he's going to be fine. But he has to go through that himself."

Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.