Exploring the Angels’ options with Jimenez …
Since his call-up, Jimenez (you can call him “Lucho”) has built somewhat of a cult following and has sparked the Angels, batting .355 while playing a much-improved defense at third base. Callaspo has been out since April 11 because of a right calf strain. He isn’t eligible to return until Saturday, and my guess is he’ll come back shortly after that (he basically just needs to be cleared to run).
When that does happen, what do the Angels do with Jimenez? Here’s a look at their options, under the assumption that shortstop Erick Aybar is already back on the roster by the time Callaspo comes back …
Keep him as the starting third baseman: Simply put, the Angels know who Jimenez is, and they like what Callaspo gives them. That’s why they signed Callaspo thru 2014 in the offseason, even though Jimenez was coming off a solid year in Triple-A. To go back on that three weeks into the season would be a bit of a knee-jerk, I’d say. But if Jimenez does keep the starting job, Callaspo could be a serviceable pinch-hitter off the bench because he’s a switch-hitter and he’s patient. He’d also be a nice late-game defensive replacement at the hot corner. But don’t get any thoughts of Maicer Izturis in your head. Callaspo certainly can’t handle shortstop, and I’m not sure how serviceable he can be at second base at this point (he’s played 12 games there since 2009).
For what it’s worth, Mike Scioscia gave Callaspo a ringing endorsement on Sunday, saying: “Alberto’s huge for our team – very important. He’s the type of guy that if Lucho wasn’t stepping up and playing so well, you’d really be pointing to him and saying how much we miss Alberto. And we need him back, for sure.”
Bring Jimenez off the bench: The positive is that he’d give the Angels some much needed power off the bench; the negative is that Jimenez isn’t all that versatile. He started to learn first base this spring, but that’s really all he plays. It’d be nice to have a right-handed bat off the bench capable of driving the ball, but how well would the 24-year-old Jimenez handle being a pinch-hitter. Young players like him don’t have any experience doing it. Keeping Jimenez would bring another tough decision for Scioscia, regarding sending down Brendan Harris or Andrew Romine. Harris has the better bat, Romine has the better glove.
Send Jimenez down to the Minors: This one would just feel, well, wrong. The sample size is still awfully small, but Jimenez has been a really nice spark for this team, not only with the bat, but with his energy and the way he carries himself. He just seems like he belongs here. If he keeps hitting, could the Angels really justify sending him back to Triple-A? Do they need both Harris and Romine off the bench, or could one do in order to keep Jimenez on the roster? It’s a question that may need an answer relatively soon.