Make or Break Time for Ubaldo

In the English language, it is a general rule the every “Q” is followed by the letter “u”.

That is certainly true for the Cleveland Indians.  Their biggest question is Ubaldo Jimenez.

He was a concern for the team after last season ended, a year where Jimenez lost 17 games and had an ERA of 5.40.  He was second in the American League in walks, and led the league in wild pitches.

New manager Terry Francona visited the big right-hander in the off-season and new pitching coach Mickey Calloway has worked hard to smooth out Jimenez’ bulky mechanics. 

So far, the results are mixed.

He did pitch well in his first start against Toronto in the second game of the season, but his next two appearances were terrible, the home opener against the Yankees, and a start vs. Boston that he couldn’t make out of the second inning.

He was okay against Houston, allowing a two run homer in the first, but at one point retired 13 men in a row.  Still, he was pulled after throwing just 65 pitches and received a no decision.

It seems that Francona and Calloway are trying to avoid putting Jimenez on the mound, pushing him back in the rotation in each of his last three starts.  He was supposed to pitch on Saturday night, but with the rainout Friday in Kansas City, they decided to start him Monday, by passing both games in a doubleheader on Sunday.

The question now seems to be how much longer is the rope for the former Rockie? 

He still cannot throw strikes consistently, with 11 in 17 innings of work this season.  And he is pitching backwards, throwing 30% split finger fastballs on the first pitch this season, and that pitch is usually used to finish off hitters.

It seems like the Tribe doesn’t have confidence in Jimenez, and worse yet, the pitcher himself has no confidence.

And soon, the Indians will have a decision to make. 

Corey Kluber gave his team a very good start Sunday night in Kansas City, going seven innings and allowing just two runs.  He’s earned another start.

Justin Masterson has won four games thus far, and Zack McAllister has kept Cleveland in the game in each of his five starts. 

Scott Kazmir showed promise in his second start after a rocky outing in his first effort.  The lefty is a project, but he has maintained a 90+ MPH fastball that he had when he was a top-notch pitcher with the Rays.

So, right now, by performance and as a result of being moved around in the rotation as needed, Jimenez is the Indians’ fifth starter.

What happens if Trevor Bauer, who will make a spot start on Wednesday against Philadelphia because of Friday’s rainout, pitches well?  Or if Carlos Carrasco, who took a line drive off his pitching elbow last week, continues to dominate at AAA?

If things continue, as they are, which of course, is no guarantee, what choice does the Tribe brass have with Jimenez? 

He can refuse being sent to the minors, so that’s not really an option. 

Others have mentioned the bullpen, but teams really don’t use long men any more and he can’t throw strikes, so that’s doesn’t seem to work either.

His contract ends after this season, so the Indians could look at releasing him without being hurt long-term. 

Whatever happens, Ubaldo Jimenez is pitching for his career with the Indians over the next few starts.  That’s just reality.

MW

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