Did the Cubs just send the next Edgar Martinez to the minors?
MESA, Ariz. – Outfielder Eloy Jimenez said last month he had one, main goal in his first big-league camp this spring: Head north with the team when it breaks camp.
That, of course, was never going to happen with the loaded, experienced roster of hitters the Cubs have.
But even as the big right-handed slugger was sent to the minor-league side of camp Friday as part of another round of cuts, it was clear he made a strong first impression on the big-league staff.
“What he showed to me is a tremendous understanding of his swing as a 20-year-old,” manager Joe Maddon said. “Watch him take batting practice. His left-field foul line is pretty much left-center. He doesn’t really hook the baseball. He stays inside the ball as well as the most seasoned Edgar Martinez did. It’s kind of like that approach. Or Miguel Cabrera.”
Holy Derrek Lee.
“I’m not saying he’s those guys yet,” Maddon said. “I’m just saying that’s his approach. It’s really sophisticated for a 20-year-old. He’s going to hit. The velocity off the bat is incredible. He’ll look awful on one pitch and then come back and hit a screaming line drive. He’ll make quick adjustments.
“I don’t know when he’s going to show up, but you know he’s going to show up at some point.”
For now, Maddon wants to see Jimenez work on non-hitting fundamentals such as his routes in the outfield and base running as he continues his development at advanced-A Myrtle Beach this year.
Jimenez, who hit .321 with two homers and a .962 OPS in 16 spring games was one of three non-roster invited players reassigned to minor-league camp, joining infielder Chesny Young and outfielder Mark Zagunis.
Four more were optioned to Class AAA Iowa: right-handers Pierce Johnson and Felix Pena, catcher Victor Caratini and outfielder Jacob Hannemann.
“We just sent out seven guys; one guy’s already played in the big leagues [Pena], and the other six are gonna,” Maddon said. “I feel very confident about that. That doesn’t happen all the time.”
The cuts left 43 players in big-league camp, including 22 pitches, with 16 days left before Opening Day.