In an encouraging development for the Toronto Blue Jays, A.J. Jimenez recently started throwing in preparation for the 2014 season. For most players that kind of development would be inconsequential, but for the 23-year-old catching prospect it represents progress.
Jimenez, who missed most of the 2012 season to recover from Tommy John surgery, stopped throwing again at the end of 2013. Now he’s throwing four days a week and expects to be ready six weeks from now when spring training games begin.
“I’m feeling good,” Jimenez said at the Blue Jays’ rookie development camp. “I just started throwing a couple days ago and I’m feeling great. I can’t wait to be back in spring training.”
Jimenez played at three levels last year, hitting a combined .287/.332/.406 with 19 doubles in 67 games at Class A Dunedin, double-A New Hampshire and triple-A Buffalo. It was enough to capture the attention of Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos, and nearly earned Jimenez a September callup. However, he experienced nerve irritation in his throwing elbow and rested instead.
Now that Jimenez has experience in the upper minors and a spot on the 40-man roster, he’s closer than ever to making the team. While Dioner Navarro and Erik Kratz or Josh Thole now project as the team’s opening day catchers, Jimenez won’t be far away. In the meantime, his goal is to continue refining his game.
“Keep opening some eyes. Work hard, let them know I can play at this level and obviously trying to stay healthy,” Jimenez said. “I don’t think about it that much since I’m not a big-headed guy. I just work hard wherever they put me.”
After an off-season spent trying to gain muscle, Jimenez says he feels good physically. Though Anthopoulos has praised Jimenez’s defence, the prospect believes he can improve with the glove on everything from pitch blocking to game-calling.
“I would say I’m good at it, but always trying to get better,” Jimenez said. “People can say anything, but I just feel like I need to work harder and harder every day.”
As for his offence, Jimenez knows he has improved since the Blue Jays selected him in the ninth round of the amateur draft in 2008. Is he capable of doing damage against MLB pitchers? Jimenez says he’s now ready to play at the highest level.
“It’s getting better,” he said. “Last year I had ups and downs just like everybody has ups and downs, but since 2008, I think I’ve gotten way better.”