Increased velocity has Ubaldo finishing fast
CLEVELAND -- Ubaldo Jimenez might never be the overpowering pitcher he once was for the Rockies. Over his past three starts with the Indians, though, the right-hander has showed glimpses of the fastball velocity that made him a dominant starter in the past.
Teams tasked with taking on Jimenez have noticed.
"It seems like he's gotten some arm strength back," said Orioles manager Buck Showalter, whose team was blanked over six innings by Jimenez in Cleveland's 4-3 win on Tuesday night.
Over his past three appearances, Jimenez has stayed around 93-94 mph with his fastball, topping out at 96-97 mph at a handful of turns. That is more reminiscent of 2010, when the righty led the Majors with an average fastball of 96.1 mph. This is a recent trend, however, considering Jimenez's fastball has been a career-low 91.5 mph on average this year, according to fangraphs.com.
On the season, Jimenez is 10-9 with a 3.79 ERA, 147 strikeouts, 75 walks and 147 1/3 innings logged across 27 starts. His rate of 9.00 strikeouts per nine innings is the best mark of his eight-year career, which includes a career-best 214 strikeouts during his Cy Young-contending season with Colorado in 2010.
Jimenez's showing this year has been a drastic improvement over 2012, when the pitcher went 9-17 with a 5.40 ERA for the Indians.
"It was all about being 100 percent, basically, with my mechanics," said Jimenez, who was acquired from the Rockies in a deal prior to the July 31 Trade Deadline in 2011. "I've been working harder the last two years, trying to get back to who I was before. I've been getting there. I feel really good. I feel strong right now."
Dating back to May 27, Jimenez ranks seventh in the American League with a 2.81 ERA, trailing only David Price, Ivan Nova, Bartolo Colon, Jarrod Parker, Max Scherzer and Yu Darvish in that span. Jimenez has posted a 2.22 ERA over his past eight starts, going back to July 22, during which time he has ranked fourth in the AL in strikeouts (53) and seventh in opponents' batting average (.212).
"This has been now the third start in a row where it looks like he's kind of got a second wind," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "His fastball has got life to it. He's throwing in, especially to left-handers. And that creates the separation in his offspeed. Man, that's exciting to see."