Angels' Luis Jimenez was called up from triple-A Salt Lake. (Christian Petersen / Getty…)
After losing two infielders to injury in the span of three days, the Angels called up Luis Jimenez from triple-A Salt Lake on Friday and immediately inserted him into the lineup.
"I didn't expect that right away. But I came prepared," said Jimenez, who raced to his locker to text his aunt after learning he would be starting at third base.
"I'm in the lineup. Put the game on," Jimenez, who was making his big-league debut, told his aunt. And provided she made it to the TV in time, she saw her nephew ground sharply to third in his first big-league at-bat in the third inning.
The 24-year-old Dominican got his opportunity after shortstop Erick Aybar sustained a left heel contusion Tuesday and third baseman Alberto Callaspo came out of Thursday's game in the eighth inning with a tight calf. Jimenez has a .303 career average in seven minor league seasons and was hitting .367 in 30 at-bats at Salt Lake.
But Angel Manager Mike Scioscia said Jimenez's most important contribution may come with his glove.
"The biggest improvement is his just overall presence on the field and his defensive play," Scioscia said. "He played sensational defense for us at third base. And I think that's as important as anything.
"In spring training he showed he belonged. He's not going to be intimidated on a major league baseball field or stadium."
To create a roster spot for Jimenez, the Angels optioned outfielder J.B. Shuck to Salt Lake. Shuck, 25, played in four games for the Angels, collecting a single in four at-bats.
Aybar took batting practice on the field for the first time in three days and went through agility drills Friday, but Scioscia said there is no timetable for his return. Callaspo also is day to day.
"We hope it's not going to be anything that's going to be prolonged," Scioscia said of Callaspo. "But we'll see how it sets up in the next two or three days to see if he needs to go on the disabled list."
Looking for relief
The Angels haven't seen a starter pitch into the seventh inning all season, taxing a bullpen that worked 31 innings in its first nine games. And four of the Angels' seven relievers entered the weekend with ERAs of 5.40 or higher.
Not exactly the kind of production the team had been hoping for. But Scioscia said he has little choice but to be patient.
"Some of the things that are cropping up are things that have to work themselves out," he said. "We're not going to be able to totally overhaul the bullpen. We need these guys to step up and pitch.
"These arms are good, and these are the guys that we're counting on. Right now that's one of the areas where we can tweak some roles a little bit if we want to. But that's got to evolve with that group of guys. And we have confidence that it will."