It was a pitch that probably caught the attention of very few in attendance for Tuesday's blowout loss to the Cubs, but you can bet a few coaches perked up in the dugout.
With a runner on in the seventh, and one run already in, Dany Jimenez threw a 94 mph fastball at the letters to strike out a Cubs prospect and end the threat. That four-seamer up in the zone is something Giants coaches have been working on with the Rule 5 pick all spring, and his ability to throw it for strikes could put him in the bullpen on Opening Day.
Rule 5 picks are generally interesting because of their status as players who must make the roster, or be sent back to their previous organization, but Jimenez comes with a bit more intrigue because of the camp he entered.
Farhan Zaidi and Gabe Kapler have gone out of their way to describe the organization's upcoming decisions as being based on merit. They wanted a competitive camp, one in which just about every job was up for grabs, especially on the pitching staff.
But how do you make decisions based purely on results when you're dealing with a Rule 5 pick? It's not like the Giants can just send Jimenez to Triple-A in two weeks if a similar reliever is slightly better this spring.
"Dany's competition is just demonstrating that he can perform at this level," Kapler said when asked that question earlier this spring. "And some of that comes with executing a game plan. He's really circling back to the things that he is in control of, which is landing two pitches for strikes. One of them is a fastball at the top of the zone and the other one is a breaking ball. If he can manage to do those two things, he's got plenty of stuff. It's really about landing and commanding those pitches."
The recent results have been encouraging. Jimenez walked the leadoff batter Tuesday and then gave up a single, but he limited the Cubs to one run and came back out for a perfect eighth. The ability to go multiple innings will be big for the 26-year-old, who has just 25 appearances above A-ball. It would make it a bit easier for the Giants to carry him all year.
Thus far, Jimenez is doing what he needs to. He has allowed two earned runs on seven hits in seven innings, with one walk and three strikeouts. The command in the zone has been spotty at times, but with a fastball that sits in the mid-90s and a hard curveball that hit 82 mph in a recent outing, Jimenez has the stuff to get big leaguers out.
The Giants carried Connor Joe and Travis Bergen on Opening Day last year as Rule 5 picks, with Bergen lasting all the way until late August before getting returned to the Blue Jays. With a wide-open bullpen race and an extra roster spot, they can take another chance on a Rule 5 pick. This camp has been about having fair competitions, but there's no doubt that at some point the roster rules come into play.
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Just as players with minor league options are punished in a way, Jimenez should be helped by his status, particularly if he keeps throwing strikes.
"His arm is so lively," Kapler said. "It's really about command in the zone."