There were many nervous fans when Ubaldo Jimenez last took the mound against the Houston Astros. In the mind of some, a bad performance would most certainly end his tenure in the Tribe’s rotation and even a mediocre performance would get the fans lathered up and the term “short-leash” would be the trending topic for the struggling righty.
Even before the game started Jimenez was put in a no win position by many fans who tweeted something along the lines of, “If Ubaldo can’t dominate this Triple-A lineup!” I was eager to see the game as well, but for me the only context as to how Jimenez was faring was my Twitter account.
At the time, my eyes were focused on former Indians enigma Roberto Hernandez as he took on the powerful Oakland Athletics lineup at Tropicana Field. Thinking about the polarizing force that both pitchers created among the Tribe fan base made me take pause as Hernandez was working solid frame after frame.
On the other hand, the day could not have started any worse for Jimenez. He opened the game with a four pitch walk to Jose Altuve and his fifth pitch was sent deposited in the stands by Fernando Martinez. Following the home run he surrendered a single to Jason Castro. At this point my Twitter feed looked like a slot machine spinning away, but it wasn’t hard to follow since most of them had the same general theme.
Fans overreacting to a baseball game on Twitter is normal and every fan has a right to voice their displeasure. Some comments can be overboard and distasteful and others stand out and make me ponder something. That is exactly what happened when I saw this tweet from Justin Lada of the Lake County Sentinel. A quick note: if you aren’t following Justin (@JL_baseball) you are missing a ton of outstanding information on the entire Indians organization. Justin asked a simple question:
How can anyone defend him at this point. He can work and work all he wants. Results aren’t there
— Justin Lada (@JL_Baseball) April 21, 2013
Justin’s comment is a fair question and as I sat there watching Roberto Hernandez mow down the best offense in the American League, I thought to myself – why can’t Ubaldo turn it around and become a functional pitcher?
Some will say he’s been given enough of an opportunity and the Indians would be best served by either putting Jimenez in the bullpen or releasing him altogether. Arguing for him is difficult and as Justin said above – “results aren’t there.”
Since August 1st of last season his results are as ugly as anyone in baseball. Covering a span of 14 starts (71.1 IP), he has a 1-9 record with an ERA of 7.07. He’s given up 83 hits, 56 earned runs, walked 34, and surrendered 11 home runs.
He has also been a work in progress since spring training 2011 and last season he had Manny Acta, Scott Radinsky, and Rubin Niebla working one process and now he has Terry Francona and Mickey Callaway working another one. Through it all, the “results aren’t there.”
Continuing to focus on Jimenez is a frustrating endeavor and I have no trust in what he can do at this point. Rather, I’d like to use Jimenez as a way of examining how both Francona and Callaway will work on a pitcher in the pressure cooker that is the regular season.
I believe the first step in this process began during his start against the Astros. After the rough first few batters, Jimenez settled down to retire the next 13 Astros hitters in a row before yielding a lead off single and RBI triple in the 6th inning. Despite only 65 pitches he was removed from the game.
Did Francona remove him to protect Jimenez psyche and give him something decent to walk away from after two very poor outings? Was this Francona delivering a message to Ubaldo that from this point on he is going to have to earn the trust of the manager – challenging him to toughen up?
Whatever the reason, lack of trust, psychological, or strategic in my opinion the process with Francona, Callaway, and Jimenez has entered its first stage. Unlike the former trio of men that worked with Jimenez last season, there isn’t the same need to fix him on the fly with hopes of getting that top of the rotation guy back.
Neither Terry Francona nor Mickey Callaway will lose their jobs over the failures of Ubaldo Jimenez so the path they take will be somewhat different and the results will begin with Jimenez being just a serviceable pitcher and building from there. I, like Justin Lada, do not trust Ubaldo Jimenez anymore. The results aren’t there. But, I do trust Terry Francona and Mickey Callaway to get better results from him moving forward.
Of course if Ubaldo settles down I’m going to look dumb and eat my words. At least today. IF
— Justin Lada (@nextyearinCLE) April 21, 2013