A blip on the radar (gun)
The day after his ugly start on Saturday, Ubaldo Jimenez had a meeting with Indians manager Manny Acta. The Tribe’s skipper wanted to discuss the performance and he wanted to ask the pitcher face to face is there was anything to be worried about.
“[I wanted] to make sure everything was OK,” Acta said. “And to see where he was at and what he’s trying to accomplish. Obviously, the last outing, the velocity wasn’t where we wanted it to be. We talked about it and he said he was fine, that he was OK, to not worry about it. That it’ll be there.”
The start in question was a 3 2/3 inning disaster against the Reds. Ubaldo piled up 80-plus pitches, surrendered six runs on five hits, issued four walks and yielded a home run. Reports were that Jimenez’s pitch velocity was around 89-92 mph for the most part during that outing.
Needless to say, all eyes were on Ubaldo during Thursday’s start against the Padres.
Jimenez still labored with his command, but his overall showing was an improvement. Over four innings, Jimenez gave up one run on four hits with one walk and four strikeouts. The right-hander logged 76 pitches (43 stikes) and got more efficient as the afternoon went on.
Inning to inning, Ubaldo’s pitch counts were 24 (12), 19 (12), 17 (8) and 16 (11). His long blemish came courtesy of a leadoff homer from Chase Headley in the fourth. After that blast, Jimenez got through the next three outs on just 11 pitches (9 strikes), striking out two in the process.
Ubaldo told me the homer angered him and he stopped messing around after that. I suggested he pitch angry from now on.
As for the much-documented pitch velocity, Jimenez was sitting around 92-95 mph on the afternoon. He was mainly around 93 mph with his heater. It’s not the 97-98 mph fastball that Jimenez boasted a couple years ago, but it’s early and he remains hopeful that his pitch speed will get better as we get deeper into the summer.
“I’m not going to lie to you,” Jimenez said. “Sometimes you do [think about it], because sometimes you don’t feel like it’s coming out of your hand good. So you wonder about it like, how hard am I throwing? But, today, that wasn’t the case. I was thinking about throwing strikes and I felt really good with my mechanics. I think it’s getting better and better.
“For right now, [the velocity] is not too important. I know it’s going to be there. If I’m 100 percent, I know my velocity is going to be there. Right now I’m just trying to work on having command with my fastball and trying to get my breaking ball over for a strike.”
That was still an issue on Thursday. Jimenez bounced a lot of breaking balls and wasn’t sharp with his fastball command early on. Overall, he slipped into eight three-ball counts, though five of those came in the first two innings. He only threw seven first-pitch strikes among the 16 batters he faced as well.
“It has to [get better],” Acta said. “I don’t think any pitcher at this level can survive pitching 3-1, 3-2 all the time. But, that wasn’t our concern. My concern was I was wanted to see better stuff than what I saw in the last outing, and I saw that.”
Some notes from Thursday…
- The Indians made another round of roster cuts — err, reductions — on Thursday, optioning Zach McAllister and Cord Phelps to Triple-A and reassigning Trevor Crowe and C.C. Lee to Minor League camp. With McAllister no longer in camp, the fifth starter race is officially down to Kevin Slowey, Jeanmar Gomez and David Huff.
- Acta on McAllister: “He just needs to continue to be consistent with his secondary pitches, and with the progress he has made over the last year and a half. We are extremely happy with the progress he has made. He’s a guy that we feel is going to be dependable in the near future for our rotation.”
- Acta on Lee: “It was good to give him an extended look. We told him to be ready and continue to work, especially against left-handed hitters. Despite his arm angle, he’s got good enough stuff to get righties and lefties out. We just told him that. He doesn’t want to be labeled as a right on right guy and we don’t think he’s a right on right guy. He learned a ton here in camp. I’m sure he’s going to contribute at some point.”
- Acta on Crowe: “It’s the best I’ve seen him in the three years I’ve been here. I told him that. Unfortunately, it’s a different situation. He fell behind a little bit, because of his injuries and performance over the last two years, but this is the best I’ve seen him. he worked very hard during the offseason. He really swung the bat well and looked under control and more mature. It was just unfortunate that we had so many guys in camp and he’s had his opportunity before.”
- We chatted some with center fielder Michael Brantley this morning about his right hamstring injury. He said it’s “nothing serious” and noted that he began some exercises as part of his rehab program on Thursday. In a few days, he should be able to resume baseball activities. The Indians are hopeful that he’ll be fine for Opening Day.
- Indians utility man Jason Donald — a virtual lock for a bench job — played center field for seven innings on Thursday against San Diego. He can play second base, shortstop and third base, so adding some outfield makes him all the more valuable. The Indians will get a look at him in left, too. They just want to make sure using him as an outfielder is a realistic possibility.
- There is nothing new on the Roberto Hernandez front in terms of when he might obtain a visa and be able to rejoin the Indians. Acta did note, however, that Hernandez is scheduled to work through an 80-pitch sim game on Friday at the team’s baseball academy in the D.R.
- Pitcher Rick VandenHurk arrived in Arizona on Thursday and will be with the team for Friday’s workout. And, it turns out, VandenHurk has requested that we refer to him by his given first name of “Henricus.” Oh, and his last name is actually “van den Hurk.” So welcome to the Indians, Henricus van den Hurk. He was claimed off waivers from Toronto on Wednesday and will be thrown into the Tribe’s bullpen competition.
- No official word yet on when closer Chris Perez (left oblique) will pitch in a Cactus League game for the first time, but he felt fine on Friday after throwing a 20-pitch live BP session one day earlier. He wasn’t listed for Friday’s game on the board in the clubhouse, though Friday or Saturday was the expectation for his spring game debut.
- Here’s what Acta had to say Thursday about the left field competition: “You hit, we find a place for you. You need to hit. We can’t have a pecking order for defensive left fielders here. We need to see some stuff here, some offense, some production. The majority of them can get out there and play left field and catch a routine fly ball. We need to see some more. If you just hit, and you don’t play defense, then you show some defense. But if you can stand back there and catch a fly ball, you need to do some other things to win a job, if you’re competing for a job. It’s totally different if it is your job and you come over here and you don’t hit. It is your job. But if you’re trying to get a job, you need to get out here and do some stuff for us.”
- With that in mind, Shelley Duncan — a.k.a The Dunc Tank — launched his team-leading fifth home run of the spring in Thursday’s win over the Padres. He also has 14 RBIs in 12 Cactus League games. His average isn’t spectacular (.250), but he’s doing all he can to hit his way into the Tribe’s starting lineup. Maybe he’s that power-hitting righty all the fans have been begging for over the past couple years.
- A couple other players having strong springs are RF Shin-Soo Choo and DH Travis Hafner. Choo went 2-for-3 with two doubles on Thursday to raise his spring average to .306. Hafner went 1-for-4 with a home run and is now hitting .345 on the spring.
- And, if I’m going to praise Jose Lopez when he does well, it’s only fair to point out when he has a clunker of a game. As the starter at second base, Lopez went 0-for-3 with a strikeout and he made an ugly error in the field. That’s four errors already this spring for the utility man.
- Bullpen Watch: Relief contenders Nick Hagadone and Dan Wheeler each logged an inning on Thursday. Hagadone gave up one run on two hits with a walk and saw his ERA jump to 2.25 on the spring. Wheeler turned in one shutout frame to slice his spring ERA down to 10.29. Yeah, you read that right.
- Since I wrote about the plate discipline issues of Jason Kipnis and Lonnie Chisenhall one day ago, it’s worth pointing out how they each fared on Thursday. Kipnis drew a walk in his only plate appearance, giving him 12 Ks against 2 walks this spring. Chisenhall went 2-for-5 with three strikeouts. He has 15 Ks against 1 walk this spring.
Stay tuned for more…