Saturday, August 6, 2011
No overnight answer on Indians' Ubaldo
By Susan Petrone
The past week has seen Rockies and Indians fans equally lamenting and lauding the trade that brought right-handed pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez to Cleveland in exchange for four minor league players: pitchers Drew Pomeranz, Alex White and Joe Gardner and first baseman Matt McBride. Rockies fans were incredulous that their ace was gone so soon after earning the label. Indians fans thought the front office had traded away the farm and the future. It was this season’s biggest trade. And it gave everybody in Cleveland and Denver something to gripe about.
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According to Bob Dutton on Twitter, the Royals are calling up 2B Johnny Giavotella from Triple-A. It's the best kind of call-up because it's one that's absolutely deserved. Gia is hitting .339/.391/.481 in just under 450 at-bats for the Storm Chasers. The Royals had a spot open on the 40-man roster, so they don't have to expose anyone to waivers, but they will obviously have to shed someone from the 25-man. And the Royals, as usual, are playing coy in announcing who gets shipped north on I-29. In my mind, there are three candidates.
I have been putting off writing about Homer Bailey. He draws such strong opinions and his performance has been so inconsistent that writing about him is daunting. It is, I think, safe to say that we have all been disappointed in Bailey. He has been hurt or ineffective for much of his time in the majors. Certainly, he was rushed; I won't argue that. The Reds could have handled his situation much better, but at some point, we have to ask ourselves if Bailey will ever become the pitcher we thought he would be. But fiirst we should talk about the kind of pitcher Homer has been. Despite his stuff, he is not a strikeout pitcher.
People have been asking me about Jesus Guzman, and for good reason. Since his recall from Triple-A in mid-June, Guzman has done nothing but hit, which makes him an anomalous figure on the 2011 Padres. This is exciting, of course, because who doesn't love the occasional run? At the same time, Guzman is 27 years old and just getting his first taste of the big leagues, which means he isn't likely to become much more than a role player at this level. One problem is that Guzman doesn't have a real position. He played a lot of third base in the minors (504 games), albeit not particularly well (.908 fielding percentage). Since coming up with the Padres, most of his action has been at first base, accompanied by a few scattered innings of corner outfield work.
Jimenez has been surrounded by question marks and speculation this season. After he went 19-8 with a 2.88 ERA in 2010 and was the National League’s starting pitcher in the All-Star Game, he was easy to be excited about, routinely throwing in the upper 90s. This season, he came to the Tribe with a 6-9 record and a 4.46 ERA, and a fastball that strains to hit 95 mph on the speed gun. What happened to his velocity? Was 2010 a fluke? In anticipation of getting some sort of answer to those questions, Jimenez’s first American League start on Friday night ranked somewhere between the second coming and a new Harry Potter title on the scale of anticipation.
Taking the mound against the Texas Rangers, Jimenez’s first pitch was a 91-mph called strike, and everyone in Cleveland breathed a sigh of relief. Then he threw two balls and gave up a double to Ian Kinsler, and perhaps just as soon everyone in Denver could say, “Whew, guess we made the right choice.” The thing is, maybe fans in both cities are right. The question of whether or not this was a good trade for either team was never going to be answered on this Friday, and it won’t be answered for a couple of years.
Indians fans have waited for decades for the Next Big Thing to bring them to the World Series, or at least all the way back to a full season of .500 ball. Over the years, the team developed scads of great young players, only to trade them away for a handful of potentially magic beans when they were close to free agency or to use them as bait for a “rebuilding” year. So Indians fans can empathize with the Rockies fans who questioned this trade. White and Pomeranz were supposed to be keys in Cleveland’s starting rotation in a couple of years; now they’re Denver’s Next Big Thing. It’s delightful to see Jimenez in an Indians uniform, make no doubt about that. But the idea of a savior in cleats who will change an entire team’s fortunes in one day is a myth.
On the other hand, baseball is built on a series of immediate answers: ball or strike, fair or foul, safe or out, win or loss. That’s an oddly binary basis for a game that’s played without a clock. Trades aren’t wired that way. Despite a desire for immediate results and a world that increasingly provides just that, moving human beings around in new configurations rarely provides instant gratification. Normally, it can’t.
Jimenez’s first inning as an Indian looked like it could go either way. Kinsler stole third, then scored on a wild pitch. As the game went on, however, Jimenez calmed down, giving up four runs on seven hits and striking out seven in five innings. The fourth and fifth innings gave Cleveland hints of the pitcher the Indians hoped they were getting, as the Rangers went down in order on four strikeouts and a couple of ground outs. But then he started the sixth inning by giving up a solo shot to Mike Napoli, then walking Mitch Moreland before being pulled.
What questions were answered? Jimenez didn’t immediately tear up the joint, but the Rangers are a good team. He didn’t quite answer the question of where his velocity went, throwing his fastball primarily in the low to mid-90s. He hit 97 on at least one four-seamer and 95 and 96 on several others. Does that mean the Indians have the Jimenez of 2010? We won’t find that out after his next start, or the one after that.
In the end, the Indians lost in 11 innings when another wild pitch -- this time by Rafael Perez -- allowed Elvis Andrus to move into scoring position. Perez shouldn’t be judged on one wild pitch, but then again, Jimenez’s future value to the Indians shouldn’t be judged on one game.
PHOTO OF THE DAY
Austin Jackson and the ball provide a reason why the triple's the most exciting play.
Susan Petrone writes about the Cleveland Indians for the SweetSpot network at It's Pronounced 'Lajaway'. If you follow her on Twitter, she might say something that will amuse you.