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Ubaldo, top prospects among Rockies' NRIs

@harding_at_mlb
February 5, 2020

DENVER – Ubaldo Jiménez, owner of the greatest pitching moment in Rockies history, hasn’t thrown a Major League pitch in two seasons. But on Wednesday, he not only insisted he isn’t done, he’s also willing to go back to where it all started. Jiménez, 36, who threw the Rockies’ only

DENVER – Ubaldo Jiménez, owner of the greatest pitching moment in Rockies history, hasn’t thrown a Major League pitch in two seasons. But on Wednesday, he not only insisted he isn’t done, he’s also willing to go back to where it all started.

Jiménez, 36, who threw the Rockies’ only no-hitter (April 17, 2010) and according to WAR is the most successful pitcher in Rockies history, was announced Wednesday as one of 21 non-roster invitees to Spring Training. The Rockies tweeted the full list here:

The last time Jiménez pitched was 2017, when he went 6-11 with a 6.81 ERA in 31 games (25 starts) for the Orioles.

Jiménez, who signed with the Rockies in 2001 as a teenager and pitched for the club from 2006-11, had no intention of retiring after his contract with the Orioles ended. He just had more important matters.

“I continued getting ready for the next year. I even got a Major League offer. But unfortunately, at the time, my wife was going through a high-risk pregnancy,” Jiménez said. “Thus, I decided to say home and be with my family. However, I continued my routine pretty much the whole year.”

Jiménez reported that his wife, Mariví, and baby pulled through the pregnancy. They have two daughters, Jimevi, 3, and Ilanny, 1. Another child is on the way.

The reunion has been in the works since last year. A conversation with Rolando Fernandez, the Rockies’ vice president of international scouting and development, led to sessions in August with Edison Lora, the Rox’s Latin American field coordinator. Back in ’01, Fernandez signed Jiménez and Lora was his first pro pitching coach.

Jiménez passed muster with his old Rockies mentors and this winter pitched for Licey in the Dominican Winter League. He went 1-4 with a 3.03 ERA (29 2/3 innings pitched, 10 earned runs), with 27 strikeouts and 13 walks. He reports throwing his fastball 90-95 mph.

“I’m actually pitching two innings tomorrow, two innings at the Rockies’ complex [in Boca Chica, Dominican Republic] against the young prospects,” he said. “I’ve never had any problems with my arm, and my body feels good. Plus, I still love the game.”

According to Baseball-Reference, Jiménez’s 18.9 pitching WAR (Wins Above Replacement) represents the highest such figure for a pitcher in club history.

With the Rockies, Jiménez went 56-45 with a 3.66 ERA that is the lowest in club history. His 7.636 hits per nine innings and 0.582 homers per nine innings are franchise marks, and his 773 strikeouts rank second. His best year was 2010, when he went 19-8 with a 2.88 ERA over 33 starts, with 214 strikeouts that were the club mark until German Márquez fanned 230 in '18.

Here are situations to watch involving non-roster invitees:

CATCHER: There is opportunity for two experienced catchers -- Drew Butera, who has seen time with the Rockies each of the last two seasons, and Elias Díaz, who appeared in a career-high 101 games with the Pirates last season before joining the Rockies.

Beyond Tony Wolters, the main catcher last season, the only catcher on the 40-man roster is rookie Dom Nuñez, who debuted at the end of last season.

The Major League roster is full; however, a spot will open when the season begins and righty reliever Justin Lawrence begins an 80-game suspension for a violation of the MLB Drug Prevention and Treatment Program.

PITCHERS: Jiménez is not the only starter with appearances for the club trying to make it as a non-roster player. Righty Tim Melville finished last season in the starting rotation (2-3, 4.86 in seven starts) after beginning the year with Long Island of the Independent Atlantic League, and going 10-5 with a 5.42 ERA in 18 games (17 starts) at Triple-A Albuquerque.

Veteran righty Tim Collins made nine relief appearances with the Cubs (0-0, 3.12 ERA), and is 12-17 with a 3.60 ERA in 275 combined appearances with the Royals (2011-14), Nationals (2018) and Cubs (2019).

Also competing as non-roster invitees are three relievers who saw time last season with the Rockies -- righties Wes Parsons (combined 1-2, 5.45 in 32 games with the Braves and Rockies) and Joe Harvey (combined 1-0, 5.00 in 18 games with the Yankees and Rockies).

EXPERIENCED POSITION PLAYERS: Right-handed-hitting Chris Owings, a former mainstay with the D-backs, batted .139 in 66 games with the Royals and Red Sox last year. Right-handed-hitting Eric Stamets batted .049 in 15 games with the Indians last season. Outfielder Mike Gerber hit .042 in 12 games last season with the Giants, and .076 in 30 games over two seasons with the Tigers and the Giants.

TOP PROSPECTS: This will be the first Major League camp for the Rockies’ top pick in 2018 and their No. 2 prospect according to MLB Pipeline, lefty starting pitcher Ryan Rolison. Last year, Rolison was the Rockies’ MLB Pipeline top pitching prospect.

Other top 30 prospects in camp under Minor League deals are corner infielder Colton Welker (No. 3), infielder-outfielder Ryan Vilade (No. 6) and righty reliever Tommy Doyle (No. 21).

Thomas Harding has covered the Rockies since 2000, and for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb and like his Facebook page.