BALTIMORE -- Whether it was the last game Ubaldo Jimenez ever starts for the Orioles, no one was certain. But Friday's 8-3 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays -- the home finale for the inconsistent righty -- was a microcosm of Jimenez's entire four-year stretch in Baltimore.
He was completely lights-out in the first inning, breezing through a nine-pitch 1-2-3 frame. In the second, Jimenez loaded the bases and served up a grand slam to Wilson Ramos. By the time the third inning had finished, the wheels had come off: Jimenez had allowed six runs to end his night.
"Hopefully when I get that answer I'll let you know," Jimenez said of the reason why he's been so inconsistent the past four years. "I've been feeling good, especially this year I just haven't had the results to show for it. I'm someone that always believes whatever God has [in store] for me I'm always going to be fine with it. I'm going to go out there and do my best and whatever happens at the end of the day, I'm going to have to live with it."
Jimenez, signed to a four-year contract in February 2014, has been frustratingly erratic, capable of pitching eight dominant innings and following that up with not being able to get out of the fourth inning the next three starts. The 33-year-old has been in the rotation and demoted to the bullpen several times.
He has been a source of fan frustration and, at times, one of their best options. One can make the case Jimenez was the Orioles' most consistent arm for the second half of 2016, going six or more innings in six of his final seven starts, including a complete game against Tampa Bay, to help propel Baltimore to a Wild Card berth.
"That's for another day," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said of opining on Jimenez's tenure as an Oriole. "It's not up. We always look for the positives in everything, especially my job and if you look, you'll always find them. Tonight wasn't one of them even though you can say, ground ball, ground ball, but we hit a guy 0-2 and make a pitch that Ramos jumped on, and we gave two right back. He's not the only one, but I know that's a point of emphasis tonight."
Jimenez was more willing to reflect.
"It's had its ups and downs of course," said the righty, whose best season came in 2015 when he went 12-10 with a 4.11 ERA. "But being here in this clubhouse with such a great group of guys is something that I'm always going to take with me. Nothing is going to erase that."
Regardless of if he gets one more start next week or not, Jimenez plans on hitting the free-agent market this winter and continuing his career.
"There's no doubt. I feel good, my arm feels good," said Jimenez, who has hit the disabled list (ankle) just once over his time with Baltimore. "I've never had any trouble with my arm and been in the big leagues for 10 years."