Thursday, March 11, 2004

Leadoff man finds good fit


Second baseman perseveres through trades, injury

By John Fay
The Cincinnati Enquirer

[photo]
D'Angelo Jimenez has a consistent bat, but the Reds want to see more range on defense.
The Cincinnati Enquirer/MICHAEL E. KEATING

SARASOTA, Fla. - D'Angelo Jimenez feels like he's at home with the Reds.

But, then again, he felt at home with the New York Yankees, the San Diego Padres and the Chicago White Sox.

His stay in those places was short-lived. Whether things are different in Cincinnati depends largely on how Jimenez plays.

"I think I have a good opportunity to be here a long time," Jimenez said.

Jimenez, the 26-year-old Dominican, has an opportunity to revive his career. When the Reds acquired him from the Chicago White Sox on July 6 last year, then-general manager Jim Bowden said Jimenez was the 25th man on the roster.

Jimenez quickly changed that by hitting in his first 15 games as a Red and playing a steady second base.

That helped him secure the leadoff spot and the job at second. After the Reds' spate of injuries, he was moved into the third spot.

Jimenez ended up hitting .290 with seven home runs and 31 RBI in 73 games with the Reds.

This year - with the rest of the lineup healthy - Jimenez is in the leadoff spot again.

"His hitting style is suited for leading off," hitting coach Chris Chambliss said. "He puts the bat on the ball. He's a good bunter. He knows the strike zone, so he sees a lot of pitches."

Those are all things Jimenez does consistently, no matter where he is in the order.

"I use the same approach whether I hit second, third, seventh," he said. "It's no different when I lead off. I'm still looking for a good pitch to hit."

Jimenez's on-base percentage was .365 last year with the Reds. That's not Rickey Henderson, but it's not bad, either, especially for a young hitter.

At one time, Jimenez was a top Yankee prospect, rated equally with Alfonso Soriano.

Jimenez seemed to be on his way after hitting .327 with 15 home runs, 88 RBI and 26 steals in 126 games in 1999 at Triple-A Columbus as a 21-year-old. He was also voted the best defensive shortstop in the International League.

But in January 2000, Jimenez broke his neck in an auto accident in his native Dominican.

After surgery and eight months of rehab, he returned, and now is trying to get back to the level he played at before the accident.

After Soriano established himself in New York, the Yankees traded Jimenez to San Diego in 2001.

He was the regular shortstop in San Diego for the second half of 2001, when he hit .276 with three homers and 33 RBI in 86 games.

But Jimenez fell out of favor with the Padres in 2002, and they traded him to the Chicago White Sox. He finished strong with the Sox, hitting .287 with a .384 on-base percentage in 27 games.

He was Chicago's every day second baseman last year until the Sox traded for Roberto Alomar.

Now, Jimenez finds himself in Cincinnati, where he's the leadoff man somewhat by default. Barry Larkin is the only other regular suited for the job.

"(Jimenez) is a good fit for us there," Reds manager Dave Miley said. "With Larkin hitting behind him, we can do some things as far as hit-and-run and trying to make things happen."

The Reds are hoping Jimenez returns to being the defensive player he was before the accident. While he had only four errors in 73 games, his range was limited.

"We're working with him to get his feet moving," infield coach Randy Whisler said. "He's doing good job. You want to see that high-energy on every play."

E-mail jfay@enquirer.com




UC BEARCATS
Huggins: NCAA bid should be based on full season
Daugherty: UC makes it look easy, but it's not
'Cats, Cards square off in rubber match

BENGALS
Bengals nearing trade for Dillon

PREP SPORTS
St. Bernard comes up short in bid to extend playoff run
Amazons trip Eagles again
Prep results, schedule

XAVIER
Muskies take aim at No.1

REDS
Leadoff man finds good fit
Lefty Sanchez is sharp again

MORE BASEBALL
Congress to Baseball: Toughen drug testing

TV
Sports today on TV, radio

COLLEGE SPORTS
UK AD apologizes to Florida for fan behavior during game
Mason may be key for Miami
Cards hold off pesky Pirates
Coach juggling multiple jobs

CONFERENCES
RedHawks' Day breaks Cardinals in MAC Tourney quarterfinal win
Duquesne holds off UMass from line
Santee's shot the difference for Frogs vs. Golden Eagles
Conference awards
ATLANTIC 10 TOURNAMENT
C-USA TOURNAMENT

Return to Reds front page...