The Indians series with the Boston Red Sox certainly didn’t lack for storylines. First and foremost, you had the Boston Marathon bombings, which took place just after the Red Sox Patriots day game with the Tampa Bay Rays. The Sox came to Cleveland with heavy hearts to face their old manager Terry Francona. Tito did put it out there right away – this series isn’t about him. But he has to want this one just a little bit more than the others. Then there is Ubaldo….
All spring long, the Indians brass would tell you how well Ubaldo Jimenez was throwing. Few believed it. Then in his first start of the season Jimenez bobbed and weaved his way through six innings for a win. He got the ball from Francona on Opening Day in Cleveland and reverted back into the Ubaldo we all know and…well I won’t say love. He couldn’t make it out of the fifth inning, giving up seven earned runs in front of 40,000 plus at Progressive Field. With the back to back rainouts last week, the Indians smartly moved Ubaldo back in the rotation, giving him a couple of extra days to work out the kinks with pitching coach Mickey Callaway. Again, we were told by the Indians that Jimenez had a “great side session” and would be ready for his next start.
Did anyone buy that?
With another chance to show his improved mechanics, the much-maligned right-hander took the mound last night seeking redemption for the Opening Day debacle. Things started well enough for him – he retired the Sox 1-2-3 in the first. After that, Jimenez went completely south. Mike Napoli doubled to open the second. Will Middlebrooks then started the base on balls party. He came back to strike out Daniel Nava, but that was just a stay of execution. Ubaldo fell behind in the count on one hitter after another and completely lost his way. He walked Johnny Gomes to load the bases and David Ross to force in the first run of the game. Pedro Ciriaco fought off a pitch for the other way for a sacrifice fly to score Middlebrooks. Ubaldo could have easily made his night a lot easier and minimized the damage right there if he could get Jacoby Ellsbury.
Ellsbury hit a sharp single right up the middle off of the glove of a diving Asdrubal Cabrera. Another run scored. Ellsbury stole second without even a throw from catcher Carlos Santana. It is like pouring salt in the wound when Ubaldo can’t even come close to holding a runner on at first. Up stepped Shane Victorino, the man the Indians offered a four-year deal to before signing Nick Swisher. I bet you can’t guess what he did? Yep, walk number four to re-load the bases. Ubaldo’s final act on this night was…you guessed it…a walk to Dustin Pedroia which forced in another run.
He walked off the field, as the late Nev Chandler once said, to a “chorus in boo flat.”
Enter Cody Allen, who promptly gave up a two-run double to Napoli, his second of the inning. That closed the book on Ubaldo with this stellar line: 1.2 innings pitched, seven earned runs, two hits, and five walks.
“In the first inning, I felt good, and the ball was coming out of my hand good,” Jimenez said. “In the second inning, I couldn’t control the ball. I don’t know why. I really felt good, I just wasn’t able to close out the inning after there were two outs.”
I’m going to be completely reactionary here. I’m one for patience, but this is an extreme instance. The time has arrived. We have all seen enough of Ubaldo Jimenez. What more does he have to do to prove that he isn’t a viable starting pitcher? He has horrific mechanics that a third pitching coach in three years can’t seem to fix. His velocity is a shell of what it was during his half-season peak in Colorado in 2010. The Indians cannot continue to trot this guy out there every fifth day and hope that he can somehow make it through five innings. It taxes the bullpen. The upside isn’t there. He isn’t a power pitcher anymore, he has serious command issues, and he can’t hold runners on base.
Other than that, Ubaldo is great!
You look up today and the now infamous Jimenez for Drew Pomeranz, Alex White, and two other prospects deal has been an abject disaster on both sides. Colorado received what has essentially become two failed first round pick pitching prospects for a guy whom they knew had issues, but still had plenty of value on the trade market. Jimenez has been a hugely spectacular failure in Cleveland at the cost of $11 million and their two biggest trading chips at the time.
Make no mistake, there really are no winners in this trade. White bounced back and forth between AAA and the majors and flamed out of the Rockies rotation. This winter, White was dealt to Houston. He will miss all of 2013 after Tommy John surgery on his pitching elbow. Pomeranz made 22 starts in 2012 going 2-9 with a 4.93 ERA and couldn’t make the 25-man roster this Spring on a pitching starved team.
It is all hindsight now, but we can’t forget that this trade was made by the current front office, who bet their two biggest trade pieces on a pitcher with major mechanical issues. Shouldn’t there have been huge red flags up when the Rockies were willing to give up a then-27 year old starter on a club friendly deal that had a year and a half left on it and additional $5.75 million and $8 million team options for 2013 and 2014?
Our friend Jordan Bastian of Indians.com came up with this stat that should tell you all you need to know:
Dating back to July 14 last season, Jimenez has gone 1-12 with7.27 ERA in 17 outings for the Indians. Last win came on Aug. 9 last year.
— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) April 17, 2013
I still can’t wrap my head around what is worse – the Indians wasting their best trade assets on a suspect Ubaldo Jimenez or the fact that it was Brad Grant and his scouting staff – who are still with the team – that drafted two guys in the first round who thus far haven’t proven they are Major League worthy.
My guess is that Jimenez will get one or two more starts to re-establish himself, but at this point he is too far gone. The second he gets in trouble, he starts to overthink and loses it. His issues aren’t just mechanical, they reside between his ears.
After the game, Ubaldo said he will go back to throwing twice between starts with Callaway. ”I have to erase everything,” Jimenez said.
Can we erase the trade?
The Tribe went on to lose this one 7-2 and you have to credit the work of Allen, Nick Hagadone, Rich Hill, and Bryan Shaw who kept the Red Sox scoreless for the final seven innings, striking out 15. That is about the only silver lining you can find in this one. “Our bullpen was unbelievable,” said Francona.
The good news is that Tribe stopper Justin Masterson (3-0, 0.42 ERA) goes tonight in game two of the series. The Red Sox will send out Alfredo Aceves (0-0, 6.57 ERA), who was actually their closer a year before.
(AP Photo/Mark Duncan)