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After 'pen stint, Ubaldo sizzles in 7-inning start

O's hoping to repeat results from last year, when righty returned to rotation strong
MLB.com

BALTIMORE -- Ubaldo Jimenez's strong outing on Sunday may prove that a short stint in the bullpen was the right move for the previously struggling righty.

With a heat index of 97, Jimenez went a strong seven innings in his first quality start since April 19, allowing two earned runs on four hits to lead his team to an 8-5 win over the Cardinals.

Full Game Coverage

BALTIMORE -- Ubaldo Jimenez's strong outing on Sunday may prove that a short stint in the bullpen was the right move for the previously struggling righty.

With a heat index of 97, Jimenez went a strong seven innings in his first quality start since April 19, allowing two earned runs on four hits to lead his team to an 8-5 win over the Cardinals.

Full Game Coverage

"I can't tell you how few pitchers in baseball would have pitched seven innings in that weather," Showalter said. "That was pretty remarkable."

"It was a really tough day to pitch," Jimenez said. "It was so hot out there, and everything was carrying. If you left something hanging, it was going to be out of the park. I think that's why I had such a pretty good game today. The sinker was down in the zone, and [Welington] Castillo was calling a great game."

Jimenez had compiled a 7.71 ERA in his first eight starts of the season, prompting him to be demoted to the bullpen. The righty's high ERA was one of the reasons the Orioles' 5.51 starting ERA was the second-worst in the Majors entering Sunday's game.

Last season, Jimenez had started the year with a 7.06 ERA, and manager Buck Showalter moved him to the bullpen. After four relief appearances, he was moved back in the starting rotation, and he finished the year with a 3.12 ERA in those final eight starts. Sunday's outing could be setting up a repeat for this year.

"Last time he had a short stint in the bullpen, he came back and pitched real well," Showalter said. "We're hoping that happens again. We're going to need things like that again. [He] really shortened the outs we had to get out of the bullpen, which has been a struggle for us."

Not only did Jimenez enter his 299th career start knowing he had to prove his worth, but he also had the pressure of going deep into the game due to Saturday's use of four relievers.

"He may not admit it, but there's kind of a mental edge there. 'Hey, I've taken a step back, and the club needs me to deliver something,'" Showalter said of Jimenez's improvement. "I think part of it, quite frankly, he knew there wasn't someone that could pitch in the third or fourth inning. … But for us to have a chance to win today, he was going to have to pitch six or seven innings. We had to use [Mychal Givens] to win the game yesterday. There's a cause and effect to everything."

Jimenez has struggled at home this year, going 0-0 with an 8.85 ERA, so after completing seven solid innings, he exited to a loud standing ovation.

"It felt great," Jimenez said. "It felt good, especially [since] today is Father's Day. So it was a good day."

Mandy Bell is a reporter for MLB.com based in Baltimore.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Baltimore Orioles, Ubaldo Jimenez