Friday, February 21, 2014
Jimenez, the O's and fresh starts
By Jayson Stark
SARASOTA, Fla. -- Odds and ends from Orioles camp:
• So which Ubaldo Jimenez did the Orioles just sign?
Was it that guy who ripped off a 1.82 ERA in his 13 starts after the All-Star break last year -- the second-best ERA in baseball behind only Clayton Kershaw?
Or was it that other guy -- the Ubaldo Jimenez who had a 5.10 ERA in his first 61 starts with the Indians, with 175 walks in 340.2 innings?
The Orioles are well aware that this is a pitcher who has a complicated delivery and a history of losing that delivery. But they've just bet $50 million that they can fix those issues.
“I have a lot of confidence in the kid,” said the Orioles’ executive vice president of baseball operations, Dan Duquette. “But I also have a lot of confidence in the leadership of our team, in Buck [Showalter] and [new pitching coach] Dave Wallace.
“Dave Wallace is a pro. You go back and look at his record in L.A., New York and Boston. He gets the most out of his pitching staffs. He’s very good with starting pitchers. So I think we have a reasonable chance to get good performance from Ubaldo.”
• Another potentially important Dave Wallace connection is his history in Los Angeles with the Martinez brothers -- Pedro and Ramon. Wallace was their pitching coach with the Dodgers. Duquette was Pedro’s general manager in Montreal and Boston. And Jimenez has the same agent (Fernando Cuza) as the Martinez brothers.
So Duquette made a point Thursday of pointing out that Cuza “saw how Dave Wallace worked very efficiently with Ramon and Pedro Martinez, and particularly Ramon, who’s built very similarly to Ubaldo and has a similar type delivery and an excellent changeup. I think Fernando saw the obvious possibilities of Ubaldo working with Dave, and making the same kind of adjustments that Ramon made and having the same type of success.”
Cuza confirmed that, saying, “The Dave Wallace connection was important.
And Dave speaks perfect Spanish. He knows the culture. He’s worked with some of the best Dominican pitchers in the history of baseball. So I think, in this environment, Ubaldo is going to be able to really thrive.”
• Duquette made repeated references to the fact that Jimenez has started at least 30 games in each of the last six seasons. For the record, he’s one of 10 right-handers in baseball who have done that. The others: Justin Verlander, Felix Hernandez, James Shields, Matt Cain, Tim Lincecum, Bronson Arroyo, A.J. Burnett, Dan Haren and Edwin Jackson.
• Yes, Jimenez really said he’s looking forward to facing all those tough lineups in the AL East. Which is interesting, considering that he has a 5.86 career ERA against the rest of the division -- and that he’s 2-5, 8.78 lifetime against the Red Sox and Yankees.
Here’s what he said, for the record: “It’s a big challenge every five days. It’s not easy. It’s the toughest division in baseball. So you have to try to bring your A-game every time you pitch. But I like challenges.”
Showalter’s response after listening to that answer: “I don’t want to see that on the bulletin boards now tomorrow, that he’s looking forward to pitching against the AL East. He’s looking forward to the CHALLENGE.”
• Adam Jones, on whether the Orioles’ window to win is right now, with Nick Markakis and J.J. Hardy a year away from free agency and Matt Wieters and Chris Davis two years away: “That’s the economic part of baseball. And I didn’t major in economics, so I have no idea how it’s going to work. In a perfect world, we’re going to lock everybody up for five or six years. In reality, it’s not going to be like that.
But the important part is that right now, we've got guys here who want to be here. And hopefully, they’re here for a long time. But I don’t know if they will, because it’s a business.”