ANAHEIM -- It was the afternoon of March 28, just before the opener of the annual Freeway Series against the Dodgers, when Luis Jimenez got a rare look at Angel Stadium and couldn't stop smiling. He walked around the field, took pictures of himself with his iPhone, stood in the batter's box, pretended to swing and said jokingly but with conviction: "I'm going to hit 20 homers. You'll see."
Two weeks later, here he was again, called up from Triple-A Salt Lake -- with shortstop Erick Aybar and third baseman Alberto Callaspo ailing -- and making his Major League debut against the Astros on Friday.
That smile was there again.
"I didn't imagine that I'd be here so soon, but I did picture myself here some day," said Jimenez, batting eighth and playing his natural position of third base. "I'm happy. I'm going to do the best I can."
In order to create a roster spot for Jimenez, the Angels optioned left-handed-hitting outfielder J.B. Shuck -- they need to keep all their bullpen arms, and Aybar and Callaspo don't figure to land on the disabled list.
Aybar, out since Tuesday with a bruised left heel, ran sprints, fielded grounders and took batting practice on Friday. The heel was hurting him while batting from the right side, so he switched primarily to the left, but he feels "a lot better now" and figures to return for the series in Minnesota early next week -- if not this weekend.
Callaspo felt tightness in his right calf while ranging to his left for a grounder in Thursday's seventh inning and stayed away from pregame activities, instead receiving treatment in the trainer's room. But he doesn't foresee being out long.
"Nothing serious," Callaspo said in Spanish. "Just a couple days, then I'll be ready to go again."
In other words, Jimenez won't really get a chance to hit those 20-some-odd home runs. At least not yet. What he can do is continue to make an impression in an organization where he doesn't really have a clear path, with Callaspo signed for the next two years and Kaleb Cowart -- the No. 1-ranked prospect in their system -- slated to take over at the hot corner.
Jimenez, 25, has posted a .303/.339/.518 slash line in seven years in the Minors, batting .309 with 16 homers, 85 RBIs and 17 stolen bases in his first season at Triple-A last year and then impressing in Spring Training.
"Some power numbers had started to emerge over the last couple years, where he's driving the ball better, but I think the biggest improvement is his overall presence on the field and his defense," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "He played sensational defense for us at third base [in Spring Training], and I think that's as important as anything, to be able to play that hot corner and make the plays down there for your pitching staff. He's come a long way in that."
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", and follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez. William Boor is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less