Jimenez: From reading history books to writing them
As a youth in the Dominican Republic, Ubaldo Jimenez recalled reading in school history books about pitcher Juan Marichal, the former San Francisco Giants great who was the first Dominican player to be enshrined in the Hall of Fame.
Now Jimenez’s 2010 start for the Rockies has his name being mentioned alongside of that of Marichal, as well as other all-time greats.
When Jimenez entered AT&T Park on Monday — he had to walk past a bronze statue of Marichal en route to the visiting team player entrance — Marichal owned one of three ERAs in history lower than his 0.88 through 10 starts. Marichal had a 0.59 in 1966, Hoyt Wilhelm posted a 0.83 in 1959 and Eddie Cicotte had a 0.84 in 1919.
All Jimenez did Monday was shut out the Giants, 4-0, and drop his ERA to 0.78.
Jimenez smiles humbly when reminded that, at least for two months, he has written his name in history alongside those of some of the greatest pitchers in history.
“I’m just proud for what I’ve been able to accomplish this year,” Jimenez said. “It’s always big to be mentioned with a guy like Juan Marichal. He’s the only Dominican in the Hall of Fame. I’m just humble for the opportunity, for the chance.”
Jimenez said he was pitching for the Rockies in Denver the 2007 World Series when he met Marichal and they’ve talked “a couple of times.”
Jimenez said he never copied the towering leg kick, which is depicted with the statue and is shown in thousands of pictures. He never thought he’d have anything in common with Marichal. He thought he’d never get any closer to Marichal than the textbook.
“I was in high school,” Jimenez said. “I didn’t even think I was going to sign with any team. I was just playing baseball for love. That was when I was around 15, so I only thought about playing the game for love, for passion.”
Now he can’t help but play for history. And his teammates can’t help but be aware.
Rockies infielders Clint Barmes and Troy Tulowitzki made strong defensive plays in the seventh. Center fielder Carlos Gonzalez helped preserve the shutout by crashing into the wall to grab Bengie Molina’s leadoff drive in the eighth.
With each inning on the MLB.com Gameday application, Jimenez’s ERA is updated after each batter. Gonzalez said players don’t really need to see the stats. They’re quite aware.
“I wanted him to stay and finish the game,” Gonzalez said. “Of course we all know what he’s doing. We want to make sure he gets everything from us. We want to be able to help him.”