Monday, June 11, 2012

Has the real Ubaldo Jimenez finally stood up?

Ubaldo Jimenez (photo: Getty Images)
Ubaldo Jimenez.

Just saying the name brings forth much emotion.

There's the anger in the initial deal, when the Indians literally traded away all of their minor league parts to get him, when all indications were that his velocity was down, his mechanics were off, and his head was in the clouds.

There's the joy in the deal, when Chris Antonetti and Mark Shapiro pulled a deal to actually bring in the top available pitcher on the market, as opposed to selling one (does CC Sabathia and Cliff Lee ring any bells?).

There's the anger in the move, when Ubaldo Jimenez came aboard the Cleveland Indians train in the middle of a pennant run, and proceeded to pitch like Roberto Hernandez's (Carmona) evil twin brother. You know the one...he can't throw a strike...can't get out of the up eight runs in three-second flat.

There's the joy in the move, when Ubaldo Jimenez retires 13 in a row, and completely dominates a line-up, showcasing an ace status that the Indians so covet. You know, the guy that pitched for the Indians on Sunday, and absolutely owned the World Champion St. Louis Cardinals.

Who is this Ubaldo Jimenez anyways? Is he the guy that's frustrated so many in Cleveland over the majority of his starts? Is he the guy whose mechanics are all over the place, can't find a release point, is frustrating to teammates and coaches, is uncoachable, and likely hurt? Or, is he the ace that nobody could touch in 2010, made the all-star game, and looked like the best starter in the National League for the foreseeable future?

It's not an easy question to answer, and likely, not one that can be answered until Jimenez takes the field from week-to-week, and start-to-start. He's shown glimpses of the all-star this season prior to his last two starts. In his opening start on April 7th, Jimenez went seven innings, giving up only one hit and two earned runs. He lost that game, but looked decent. There were still signs of struggle, but if that's the pitcher going forward, then the Indians made a good deal. Of course, it wasn't, as Jimenez would struggle over his next four starts.

Then came his start on May 6th against the Texas Rangers, who were coming off a World Series loss against the Cardinals, and are everybody's pick for being the best team in all the land. He dominated them, going 7 innings again, for only the second time this season, giving up two hits and no runs. He did give up five walks, but he struck out six batters, and at one point, retired nine in a row. Still, the velocity was down, but there were signs of a revival.

Still, there was struggle afterwards, and Jimenez continued to look like a guy that didn't know which way was up or which way was down...and a start against the Tigers loomed.

...and Ubaldo showed up.

He went 6 2/3 innings, giving up five hits and an earned run. Even more important, for the first time on the season, he only walked one batter, and it was the last batter he faced. In other words, Jimenez looked like an ace, against the team he was supposed to look like an ace against. Of course, the choir began to preach. Can he replicate it?

The answer, as most already know, is yes.

For the first time as a member of the Indians, Jimenez replicated a solid performance with an even better performance against the Cardinals. Jimenez went seven innings, giving up five hits and an earned run. He didn't walk a batter for the first time with the Indians, and for the first time since June 7th of last season. The irony is that Jimenez didn't win the game, but he kept them in it. A Vinnie Pestano, walk the bases loaded than get out of his own jam, and a Chris Perez, hurl on the field, and a Jason Kipnis three-run jack later, and the Indians walked away a winner.

But, the win may be bigger for the Indians than just in the W column. Ubaldo Jimenez pitched well back-to-back. He mowed down 13 Cardinals in a row. He looked like an ace. He struck out a season high seven batters. he face only three three-ball counts against the Cardinals. His first came against Carlos Beltran, who promptly belted a 430 foot homer. Then came his string of 13 straight outs, and he actually struck out five of his seven during an eight batter stretch, during those 13 straight outs. In other words, he dominated....

for two games in a row...

In other words, he replicated.

So my only question for his next start is...


Can he replicate?

Sorry folks, I am an Indians fan.

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