With eye on long relief, Tigers option Jimenez

Detroit sends No. 5 prospect to Triple-A to get more time, calls up Cuevas

With eye on long relief, Tigers option Jimenez

CLEVELAND -- A day after Joe Jimenez tossed a perfect ninth inning in his Major League debut at Comerica Park, he was back in Toledo for the continuation of the Mud Hens' homestand. He had 72 hours to report after being optioned out following Thursday's outing, but he didn't use it.

Meanwhile, William Cuevas, the Mud Hens' starter called up to take Jimenez's spot, was in uniform at Progressive Field, ready to take a role as the team's long reliever for this weekend while Anibal Sanchez works on a routine that better prepares him for relief duty.

Questions about Jimenez's brief first big league stint lingered among fans in Detroit. Yet go back to Monday, the day Jimenez was called up, and the hints of a quick return were there. At no point did manager Brad Ausmus or general manager Al Avila say outright they felt Jimenez was ready.

"Ideally, we would have liked to probably give him a little bit more time," Avila said on Monday, though he noted that officials in Toledo recommended Jimenez as their best option.

The option part is worth noting.

"I don't think I would've predicted it this fast," Ausmus said of Jimenez being called up Monday, "but there are some rules in play that kind of force the issue, collective bargaining rules. You can't call anyone up within 10 days of the start of the season. Only a player that is not on the roster can be brought to the big leagues."

Angel Nesbitt and Arcenio Leon were also discussed, Ausmus confirmed at the time.

Asked on Thursday why Jimenez, the Tigers' No. 5 prospect according to MLBPipeline.com, was sent down, Ausmus focused on Cuevas, saying they needed a pitcher who could throw multiple innings for the weekend in Cleveland while Sanchez rests. Other Tigers had Minor League options and could've been sent out, such as Shane Greene, but Ausmus said Friday that was never discussed.

If the Tigers believe Jimenez needs more time, there's a benefit to him getting it in Toledo now rather than having to send him back later. For one, there's the countdown towards free agency after six seasons' worth of service time. Any player optioned and recalled within 20 days gets that time tacked onto their Major League service time.

Beyond that, there's the factor of arbitration eligibility. Players with three seasons of service time are eligible, but so are the top 22 percent of players with two-plus seasons of service time. The cutoff point usually falls around late May, though it's impossible to know for sure until the season is over and all players' service times are factored in. With Avila acknowledging the Tigers' desire to do more with less payroll in future years, arbitration factors into their payroll more now than in past years.

Considering Jimenez's talent and potential, a return sooner rather than later wouldn't be a surprise.

Worth noting

J.D. Martinez ran on an Alter-G treadmill -- an anti-gravity treadmill used in physical therapy and rehab -- at 75 percent of his weight on Thursday, Ausmus said. Martinez also threw long-toss. Once he can run on 80 percent of his weight, Ausmus said, he'll be cleared to begin running on the field, something he has to do before he can begin game action.

• Sanchez threw long toss in the outfield at Progressive Field on Friday, something many relievers do but Sanchez traditionally doesn't. As he tries to find a routine that allows him to be ready as a reliever, it's something he wanted to try.

"I don't do a lot of long-toss," Sanchez said, "but when I want to feel strong, I try to."

Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com 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.