A.J. Jimenez wasn’t expecting this. The first two Indianapolis baserunners tried to steal second. One was successful. One was not.
But twice in the first inning? Well, then it was game on for Jimenez behind the plate.
“Honestly, that got me by surprise,” said the Buffalo Bisons’ 26-year-old catcher. “I saw guys in the first inning being aggressive on the bases and actually I liked it because that gave me more confidence behind the plate and made the game for me more exciting.”
Five times the Indians tried to run on Jimenez. Three times he gunned them down at second base in another solid defensive performance in a 3-2 loss to the Indians at Coca-Cola Field on Thursday afternoon.
In 53 games behind the plate with the Bisons this season, Jimenez has thrown out 34 percent (21 of 62) of baserunners attempting to steal.
Those are pretty good numbers for a young catcher who has been plagued by some major injuries.
Jimenez, picked by the Toronto Blue Jays in the ninth round of the 2008 draft, has not played more than 83 games in a season since 2011 due to injuries. In 2012 he had Tommy John surgery, then last June had surgery to clean up cartilage in his left wrist.
He was on the disabled list from June 26 to July 20 with forearm lateral tendinitis. In short, he was having trouble with his wrist again and needed time to let it heal to avoid more surgery.
“He’s probably rounding into shape right now,” Bisons manager Gary Allenson said. “It’s been a little bit of a tough year.”
Jimenez said his body and arm feel good and he’s been eagerly waiting to be called upon to make back-to-back starts since coming off the disabled list – something he will get the opportunity to do Friday when he catches Mike Bolsinger as the Bisons host Pawtucket at 7:05 p.m.
Allenson is familiar with Jimenez, having coached him in Double-A New Hampshire in 2013. A former major league catcher, Allenson sees the quickness of Jimenez as his defensive key.
“He’s got really good hands and excellent ball transfer,” Allenson said. “The key to it, just like a second baseman turning a pivot, it’s you catch it but you’re also transferring it and getting it out of your hand as quick as you can with some arm strength. A.J.’s been doing that. I didn’t see him before he had Tommy John. I had him the first year back from that and his arm strength’s improved but more than anything it’s the quickness that he has.
“I’d rather be quick. I’ve seen guys with above average arms that don’t throw anybody out because it takes them too long to get the ball out of their mitt and out of their throwing hand. And he’s quick getting rid of it.”
Allenson went on to describe his catcher’s “pop time” in Thursday’s game – or the number of seconds it takes for the ball to go from the glove of Jimenez to the infielder covering second base. (The time it takes to hear the “pop” of the ball hitting the infielder’s glove.)
“The last one I think I got a 2.01 on it, which is close to average there, but he had time on it, so he took his time,” Allenson said. “But I think one of the guys that stole there he had a 1.89, which is really good. He’s improving day by day.”
Quickness is key for Jimenez as well, but he’s working more on reaction than timing.
“I think it’s more a reaction,” Jimenez said. “Just trying to get the ball and throw to second as quick as I can. I think it’s more a reaction thing and try to make a good throw and try to make an out.”