WASHINGTON — Ubaldo Jimenez understands the three crucial pieces of information associated with his start Thursday against the Nationals.
He wouldn’t be in this position if team ace Chris Tillman wasn’t dealing with shoulder bursitis severe enough to push him to the disabled list Wednesday.
He understands losing Tillman is a huge blow to this club as it pushes for the postseason — and now other members of the rotation have to step up in his absence.
And, without a doubt, Jimenez knows very few have faith in him as he prepares to face the Nationals. That’s what happens when you pitch to a 6.94 ERA in 22 games.
It’s not that he doesn’t care about what he’s done – or not done this year – it’s that Jimenez can’t care about it right now.
“I know things haven’t been the way that I wanted them to be, but that’s baseball, that’s life. You have to continue fighting. It doesn’t matter what,” Jimenez said. “I’m looking forward to doing that. Hopefully, I’ll be there for the team in the last month, because they really need it, especially now that Tilly is out.”
Jimenez said the right things Wednesday afternoon at Nationals Park. Jimenez always says the right things. He so badly wants to pitch well, turn things around and get into the fans’ favor, something he’s done for only a few months during the three seasons he’s been with the Orioles.
What matters, though, is how he pitches. And even that won’t matter for the Ubaldo Pitchfork crowd that will continue to hold his four-year, $50 million contract – and the subsequent results — against him. If it weren’t for that contract, Jimenez would almost surely be out of an Orioles’ uniform. That’s a fact.
But he isn’t. And now he has an opportunity to spin this season, maybe his Orioles’ career, a little differently. Or he has another chance to bury himself further.
Orioles manager Buck Showalter admitted that part of the reason that Jimenez is getting Tillman’s start is because Jimenez doesn’t fit particularly well in the bullpen. It’s something he hasn’t done much in his career and his inability to consistently throw strikes is even more of a detriment when he has to enter with men already on base.
But there is more. In his career, Jimenez is 6-1 with a 2.32 ERA in eight games against the Nationals and 4-0 with a 0.92 ERA in four games at Nationals Park. If there is a good matchup for Jimenez right now, it’s in D.C.
Showalter hasn’t committed to Jimenez in the rotation beyond Thursday, saying only “we’re gonna go that way tomorrow and see where we are.”
But Tillman is expected to miss at least two starts – his DL stint was backdated – and maybe more. It’s pretty obvious that Jimenez could have a shot at redemption here.
No predictions this time. Hard to imagine Jimenez suddenly turns his season around. But crazier things have happened in this game. Tillman is down. And now, like it or not, believe it or not, this could be Jimenez’s chance to rise.