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Blue Jays place INF Kiner-Falefa on injured list, recall Jimenez

Isiah Kiner-Falefa Isiah Kiner-Falefa - The Canadian Press


TORONTO — Leo Jimenez can't believe he's in a Major League Baseball clubhouse, preparing for a game with players he used to watch as a fan.

Jimenez was recalled by the Blue Jays from their triple-A affiliate in Buffalo, N.Y., on Tuesday afternoon, hours before Toronto hosted the Houston Astros. Although the 23-year-old middle infielder is just a couple of years younger than first baseman Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and shortstop Bo Bichette, he's proud to be on the same roster as them.

"It's nice to be here, sharing a locker room with them and being able to talk to them a lot," said Jimenez in the home dugout at Rogers Centre. "That's something that I really take pride in.

"I never thought I would be in this position, being that close to them."

Jimenez was called up for his MLB debut to replace infielder Isiah Kiner-Falefa, who was placed on the 10-day injured list with a left knee sprain. The move was retroactive to Monday after Kiner-Falefa hurt himself warming up.

Originally a shortstop, Jimenez has started playing some second base in the Blue Jays' organization. He's hitting .271 with seven home runs and 23 runs batted in over 57 games for the Buffalo Bisons this season. Most impressive is his .416 on-base percentage thanks to 30 walks drawn in 226 plate appearances.

"It's been something that I've been working on throughout the years, to make my game better every season," said Jimenez, who is from Chitre, Panama. "I think this year in Buffalo has been a great year so far.

"A lot of learning, a lot of great experiences over there. Ups and downs, but I guess that's how the game works."

Kiner-Falefa was on fire the past 10 games, hitting .421 with a .488 on-base percentage. He had 16 hits and three home runs in that stretch, scoring 13 times.

Blue Jays manager John Schneider said it was a hard loss for Toronto (38-46).

"I think production aside, he's just such a baseball player," said Schneider. "Obviously, you miss all the little aspects that he brings everyday and the production, obviously.

"Especially lately. He's been consistent all year, but lately he's been great, so it's a tough loss."

The 29-year-old Kiner-Falefa signed a two-year, US$15 million contract with the Blue Jays on Dec. 29, in part because he wanted to be an every day player.

Kiner-Falefa's increased playing time was paying off, as he leads Toronto with a 3.2 Wins Above Replacement, an advanced statistic that measures a player's value in all facets of the game by deciphering how many more wins he's worth than a replacement-level player at his same position.

"I was expecting quite a bit just from seeing him play (for the Yankees) from the other side of the field and talking to people with New York," said Schneider. "He brings a lot of the focus, the intensity, the attention to detail, with every little thing.

"His energy is kind of infectious."

Relief pitcher Jordan Romano of Markham, Ont., was scheduled to see a specialist for his ongoing issues with elbow inflammation on Tuesday. Schneider did not have an update on how that examination went.