Joe Jimenez will be critical to the Tigers in short season

Detroit Tigers closer Joe Jimenez will have to be effective if the team is to have any chance of success in a short 2020 season.

Before the 2020 MLB season was put on hold, we knew that the Detroit Tigers likely weren’t going to be contenders. This remains true even as we proceed towards a shortened 60-game season.

Still, the team would like to make some progress in their rebuild, and getting a good effort from closer Joe Jimenez would go a long way towards making that happen.

The right-handed pitcher is only 25 years old and still has time to return to the form that earned him an All-Star appearance in 2018. That year, he posted a 1.98 ERA out of the bullpen through June 23; after that, however, his ERA was 7.52.

Last year, he posted a 4.37 ERA, though he showed improvement down the stretch. In September, he only allowed one run in nine innings while earning five saves.

This year, Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire was going to have Jimenez be the closer to start the season. Though they had few other options, as the projected bullpen appears to be thin, it figured to be a great opportunity for him to show what he could do over a full season.

Going from 162 games to 60, every game will carry much more importance, and since the Tigers figure to have fewer save opportunities than most other teams, it will be critical that Jimenez comes through when indeed he gets them. The Tigers desperately need to improve on last year’s .292 winning percentage, and winning the close games will be important.

There’s nothing more demoralizing to a young team than their bullpen blowing a game late.

It will be interesting to see whether Jimenez will be a part of the next good Tigers team. If the Tigers are terrible again this year and Jimenez pitches well, he could be a hot commodity at the trade deadline. However, it seems unlikely at this point that the team would want to part with him this early on in his career.

Some of the Tigers’ biggest names on offense, including offseason pickups C.J. Cron and Jonathan Schoop, don’t figure to be around long-term, while the starting rotation, though it figures to be respectable, doesn’t have any standout arms. Therefore, given his importance to the team this year and his long-term development, Joe Jimenez is among the most important players on the Tigers roster in this abbreviated 2020 season.

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