Results tagged ‘ Ubaldo Jimenez ’

Stewart not in lineup for opener

Rockies third baseman Ian Stewart was healthy enough to be on the roster for Friday afternoon’s opener against the D-backs, but not healthy enough to start.

Ty Wigginton, signed as a free agent during the offseason, gets the start at third, and Jose Lopez, acquired in a trade with the Mariners, will start at second.

There had been talk of infield utility man Jonathan Herrera, who had an outstanding spring, (.371, four triples) getting the nod, possibly ahead of Lopez, but that was not to be. Herrera will be a versatile hitter off the bench.

Here’s the lineup:

Dexter Fowler, CF

Seth Smith, RF

Carlos Gonzalez, LF

Troy Tulowitzki, SS

Todd Helton, 1B

Ty Wigginton, 3B

Jose Lopez, 2B

Chris Iannetta, C

Ubaldo Jimenez, P

Monday’s Spring Training notes

It’s a time for excitement, but also a time for caution

 

Welcome to Salt River Fields at Talking Stick. Players are raving about the place. Reliever Huston Street told me before he arrived that he expected Monday to be “Christmas in February.” Well, after being there, stretching, tossing a football around, lifting weights, tossing the medicine ball and just walking around, he thought it was something more.

 

“It’s way more than that … I don’t know what this is,” Street said. “This is unbelievable.”

 

 And, no, Valentine’s Day wasn’t an adequate description.

 

Nonetheless, this is a workplace. Rockies pitching coach Bob Apodaca said his biggest challenge is not convincing players to work in the lap of luxury. It’s not letting them overdo it when pitchers and catchers begin official workouts on Tuesday afternoon.

 

Last spring, key relievers Huston Street and Rafael Betancourt suffered shoulder injuries early in camp. Street’s was because, in hoping to reach a new level, he wanted to throw with regular-season intensity from the first day. Betancourt’s injury occurred because he suffered an illness during the offseason and didn’t figure out what his arm was capable of until pain overtook him. Add to that left-handed starter Jeff Francis’ shoulder problems at the end of camp, and last spring was a failure in terms of having pitchers ready for the regular season.

 

That won’t be happening this spring.

 

Apodaca has a message for all his pitchers — one that numerous youth teams and coaches already working for their seasons, with children who don’t yet have facial hair or are getting peach fuzz, need to heed as well.

 

The first time out, and beyond, Rockies pitchers will throw a limited number of fastballs and a few changeups. The fastball is the main pitch they need, anyhow, so why take the risk with breaking stuff?

 

“That’s the first order of business every spring, to repeat the fastball, be comfortable with it,” Apodaca said. “When it goes astray, when I throw a scud, how do I get back to where I want to be?

 

“They can throw some changeups. [Matt] Lindstrom has really been working on his changeup. [Esmil] Rodgers has really been working on his changeup. It’s basically 80 percent fastballs, 20 percent changeups the first couple of times out, we’ll start throwing some breaking pitches. The fourth time, we’re going to bring them back a little bit, because their next time is going to be a batting practice.”

 

Apodaca said he realizes some pitchers have carried a heavier offseason workload than they’ll be asked to perform at the start of camp. But there will be no argument. It’s for the protection of the pitchers.

 

“This is always the most insecure time for me,” Apodaca said.

 

The gang’s almost all here

 

Most of the pitchers and catchers showed up at the complex, played catch and worked in the fitness center. One notably absent hurdler was left-hander Jorge De La Rosa, the No. 2 starter in the rotation. De La Rosa has an offseason home in the Phoenix area, but he went home to Mexico with his family and experienced visa issues trying to make it before Monday.

 

Players from outside the United States routinely experience delays, usually because of the time it takes to process the paperwork.

 

A fond goodbye to the Dominican Republic

 

Rockies right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez, who finished third in the National League Cy Young Award voting last year, flew from the Dominican Republic to Phoenix on Friday, but not before leaving (in Spanish) a message to his country on a personal social media site. Here’s a translation:

 

“Goodbye my beloved land and my people, we are going to fight, God willing, with all our strength for the triumphs, we won’t be able to win every single time but sometimes you win by losing, so I hope you follow all of us Dominicans and send us a lot of blessings our way, I always carry my homeland in my heart and in my mind and I hope I can keep on making you feel proud.”

 

‘Tulo’ simply couldn’t wait

 

Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki has been itching to play ever since signing his new, seven-year extension (which last through 2020) not long after last season ended. On Monday, he arranged to meet general manager Dan O’Dowd at the complex at 8 a.m.

By 7 a.m., Tulowitzki texted O’Dowd saying he had eaten breakfast and was already en route to the park.

 

“I was definitely anxious to get here – a new facility,” Tulowitzki said. “I woke up early, had that itch, wanted to get to the field, see all the fields, see the new locker room. Wow. Special facility. I’m glad I’m getting to enjoy it for a long time.”

 

The first full-squad workout is not until next Tuesday.

 

 

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.”

 

Are you superstitious?

I talked with Rockies radio announcer Jack Corrigan about how he handled the tense moments leading up to Ubaldo Jimenez’s no-hitter on Saturday night. He has some experience. He was calling the Indians’ games on television when the Yankees’ Jim Abbott threw his no-no several years back.

The baseball superstition/tradition is when a no-hitter is nearing, don’t eve use those words. Radio is a much greater challenge than television. With graphics all over the screen, shots of the scoreboard and the ability to see anticipation and tension on players’ faces, it’s not as if anyone can miss what’s happening.

So how did Corrigan, working with Jerry Schemmel, handle it?

“I would say, The Braves have had six baserunners in this game, but they’ve all reached on walks. I’m old-school, but I think you can read between the lines what I’m telling you.

“We debated. Early on, Jerry, through about four or five innings, was saying that the Braves don’t have a hit. But he said, ‘You know, I think I’m going to stop.’”

Of Abbott’s, Corrigan said: “It was TV. You could see it on the screen and it was the other side, so we didn’t mind talking about it.”

Let me ask this: When watching or listening a game like that one, do you observe the superstition?

A good stopping point …

– Saturday’s no-hitter by Ubaldo Jimenez against the Braves was the obvious high point, but Sunday’s 4-3 loss to the Braves is a better illustration of where the Rockies stand. They didn’t do enough to win. Sometimes when this happens, they win, anyhow. Sunday, they didn’t.

Five hits from an offense that has been sporadic and 11 walks from pitching that has generally performed well were a recipe for disaster. Yet, the Rockies didn’t give the game away until closer Franklin Morales couldn’t throw strikes consistently in the ninth inning.

Sometimes things go wrong and they win. Sunday, many things went wrong and they almost won. Manager Jim Tracy has been noting all weekend that he ability to stay in or pull out games while not necessarily playing well is encouraging, since it means the club is capable of catching fire.

– The power and situational hitting have come and gone. The team hasn’t been consistently effective on the bases. Errors defensively have been a concern. Which area will begin to perform better first?

I believe the defense has become better. And defense is the one area that can turn hot and not cool. The Rockies made all the plays necessary behind Jimenez during the no-hitter, and performed well Sunday. Not making mistakes makes a team solid, and the Rockies are headed in that direction. The difference between solid and spectacular is taking advantage of chances the be spectacular, the way Dexter Fowler made plays behind Jimenez and the way Carlos Gonzalez did Sunday in throwing out Melky Cabrera at the plate from right field.

Shortstop Troy Tulowitzki has made some highlight reel plays, but in other cases he’s almost made them. That should change. I also believe third baseman Ian Stewart, who has had some questionable throws, needs one or two eye-popping plays to settle him and make him more consistently.

– It may be too soon but I don’t think I’m out of line for wondering … How would the lineup perform with Stewart, a power threat, in the No. 3 position, and first Todd Helton in the No. 7 hole?

– I like the way right fielder Brad Hawpe has swung the bat. I also like the way the team is monitoring his playing time. For me, it comes to this unscientific explanation: Hawpe is a big, strong fellow whose body type may be more suited for first base than the outfield. His recent quadriceps injury occurred after a swing, but the place to watch him is in the outfield, especially when he has a lot of activity. Nagging aches are unavoidable, but keep them under control and he’ll produce from April to September. This is an underrated star. 

– Although Morales has had a rough patch, I like he way the bullpen has performed. It it can maintain some consistency, imagine how much stronger it should be when right-handers Huston Street and Taylor Buchholz return.

– The rotation has been solid. Three keys could take it beyond that. 1. Jason Hammel must find some consistency. It’s early, so it’s not time to panic. 2. Greg Smith has shown a capacity to make the pitch he needs to keep situations from becoming messy, but he’ll be better if he can throw well-located strikes early in counts. 3. Aaron Cook hasn’t found his sinker. I was left intrigued by his last outing, when he relied on breaking balls and gave the team a chance to win against the Mets. Will he reach a stage where he’ll dominate with the sinker for a number of outings in a row, or will a good percentage of his outings be ones where he has to be creative?

Hey, folks, these are more Monday morning thoughts, not super observations. Where do you think the Rockies are, and how can they be better?

Cook finds form against White Sox

Before Sunday, the last Aaron Cook sighting in a Cactus League game featured him getting knocked around by the White Sox on March 16 — six runs and six hits in three innings pitched.

But Cook felt he regained his timing in a Minor League game last Saturday. He returned against the White Sox on Saturday afternoon and held them to one run and six hits in six innings of the Rockies’ 6-2 loss at Hi Corbett Field.

It’s as if the bad game against the Sox — and the bad start to the spring (0-2, 11.42 ERA in three starts) never occurred.

“I hate to say I was just getting my work in [during the first few starts], but that’s what I have to use it as — getting my arm in shape,” Cook said. “Now that I’m getting my timing down, and I’m getting the ball coming out of my hand real well, it’s time to go out there and start getting after it.”

Cook said he likes the order of the rotation. Right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez will open on April 5 in Milwaukee, followed by lefty Jeff Francis and Cook. Lefty Jorge De La Rosa will start the home opener on April 9, followed by righty Jason Hammel.

“We’ve got five completely different pitchers that we’re running out there, so it’s not like we’re running back-to-back sinkerballers or back-to-back lefties,” Cook said.

 

Cook to face Minor Leaguers Sunday; Smith gets Friday start

Rockies right-hander Aaron Cook’s search for the proper release point on his sinker will take him to the Minor League complex at Hi Corbett Field on Sunday.

 

Cook will start in a Minor League game, rather than go to Surprise, Ariz., for the game against the Royals. Righty prospect Jhoulys Chacin will start in Cook’s place.

 

Cook is 0-2 with an 11.42 ERA in three starts. His last two have been particularly bad, with balls either missing the strike zone entirely or left in poor locations. The issue is the ball isn’t leaving his hand at a consistent point.

 

Cook still will throw the same number of pitches, although the Rockies would like for him to let those carry him for five innings rather than the 2 2/3 and 3 that he pitched his last two times on the mound. But manager Jim Tracy said the setting will better allow Cook to regain the form that has led him to a franchise-high 59 career wins.

 

“Just put him in what we would consider to be a less-stressful environment,” Tracy said. “Just give him an opportunity to bear down mentally and focus on making pitches.

 

“It really doesn’t matter as far as I’m concerned as far as who’s standing at home plate with him. We’ve got to get him to the point where we see the sinker going down — the sinker going down in a good spot.”

 

Tracy also announced that projected Opening Day starter Ubaldo Jimenez will pitch in the Minor League game on Friday, and left-hander Greg Smith will attempt to continue his impressive spring in the game at Hi Corbett Field against the Athletics.

 

Smith (1-0, 2.00 ERA this spring) was expected to compete for a rotation spot last year, after arriving in a trade with the Athletics, but he pitched a limited number of Minor League innings because of back and shoulder issues. Tracy has scheduled Smith for five innings.

 

“We know Ubaldo Jimenez is pitching Opening Day,” Tracy said. “There’s nothing else I can tell you. In the case of Greg Smith, we’re talking about a guy who did not compete last year. I want him facing as good a grade of hitters as we can possibly get him up against.”

Jimenez is official for Opening Day

The Rockies named right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez the starter for Opening Day, April 5 at Milwaukee.

That was expected. Jimenez went 15-12 with a club-record 3.47 ERA last season.

What wasn’t expected was how it came about. Manager Jim Tracy said right-hander Aaron Cook, who started last year’s opener and is considered the staff’s veteran leader, came to him and said he wanted to be in the room when Tracy informed Jimenez. That’s what occurred. It was a moment of respect between two talented pitchers.

More to come.

Long day for Ubaldo

A long and difficult day for Rockies right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez didn’t get any smoother after he arrived at Tempe Diablo Stadium on Friday.

Jimenez was supposed to start against the Angels. He received permission to drive from Tucson, but was caught in a major traffic jam. Part of I-10 near Phoenix was closed because of a major accident involving a bus that killed six early Friday morning. Left-hander Greg Smith started and threw two scoreless innings.

Jimenez struck out the side in a first perfect inning. But in his second frame, he gave up four runs on three singles and two walks.

A happy return to the mound

Rockies left-hander Greg Smith’s return to the mound after not pitching in the Majors last season went much better than lefty Jeff Francis’.

Of course, Francis surrendered four runs and four hits in two innings against the Giants on Friday.

Smith made his return Friday against the Angels and threw two scoreless and hitless innings with two strkeouts and three walks. Smith, who has been a starter but could make the team as a reliever, started Friday. Scheduled starter Ubaldo Jimenez elected to drive to Tempe, but was caught in a major traffic jam and interstate closure, the result of an early morning traffic accident.

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