August 28, 2014

Medina
Partly sunny
61°F

Chris Assenheimer: Jimenez letting everyone down

CLEVELAND — I predicted big things this year for Indians pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez, which means he’s not only making himself look bad — he’s bringing me down with him.

While the majority of my colleagues were reserving judgment on Jimenez after watching him struggle upon arriving last year in a trade for prized pitching prospects Drew Pomeranz and Alex White, I boldly proclaimed that the right-hander would return to his ace form and win 15-plus games for the Indians this year.

They were the smart ones.

I should have seen that Jimenez hasn’t been the same pitcher since midway through an All-Star season in 2010 with the Colorado Rockies. I should have been alarmed by Jimenez’s disappointing debut with the Indians last year that continued with a sub par exhibition effort this spring.

But nooooooooooo.

I excused Jimenez’s performance after last year’s trading deadline move because he had just arrived in Cleveland after spending his entire big league career in Colorado – an effort that became even more acceptable when Jimenez claimed an injury contributed to his struggles.

And I believed Jimenez when he chalked up his exhibition woes to preparing and getting in shape for the season, and because, well, it’s spring training. Few frontline pitchers ever produce sparkling results in Grapefruit and Cactus League action. Just ask Cy Young award winner Cliff Lee, a notorious spring training struggler.

I based most of these beliefs upon the fact that I thought Jimenez felt as though he had something to prove this season after the Rockies were willing to part with their former ace for a pair of heralded, yet unproven pitching prospects.

He felt slighted by Colorado enough to mention it to the media this spring, touching off a war of words with former Rockies teammate Troy Tulowitzki that culminated in Jimenez hitting the all-star shortstop with a pitch at the end of the exhibition season. Word has it that Tulowitzki had some choice words for Jimenez after being hit, challenging his manhood at one point.

That strengthened my notion even further. There was no way Jimenez wasn’t going to rise up to this challenge and return to his dominating ways, while giving the Indians a stout return on their investment.

As we’ve all seen, it’s been quite the opposite.

Jimenez (3-3, 5.18 ERA) appears unwilling to challenge hitters with his four-seam fastball, and isn’t throwing enough strikes with his two-seamer, walking 30 batters over 40 innings of seven starts this season.

Among his outings, only two of them have been real good ones and in both he relied on an effective breaking ball, using his secondary pitches because his primary one was off the mark.

That is so alarming in so many ways.

Jimenez made a minor adjustment in his delivery that seemed to pay off in an impressive outing against Texas, but he took a giant leap backward with another terrible start in Boston his next time out.

There is more than enough time for Jimenez to turn things around and save some face for the both of us. But a little over a month into the season and he’s shown no signs that he is even close to curing his ills.

Who knows? Maybe he no longer possesses the ability he owned in Colorado – he certainly left his fastball in the Rocky Mountain state. Maybe he will never find that 2010 form again.

If that’s the case, the Indians and general manager Chris Antonetti, the man who pulled the trigger on the Jimenez trade last July, had better hope Pomeranz and White don’t amount to much on the big-league level.

That way, at least they will break even.

 

Contact Chris Assenheimer at 329-7136 or cassenheimer@chroniclet.com. Fan him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.