With latest blowup, Jimenez is forcing the Orioles to make a decision with his spot - BaltimoreBaseball.com

Paul Folkemer

With latest blowup, Jimenez is forcing the Orioles to make a decision with his spot

Photo credit: Joy R. Absalon

Stop me if you’ve heard this before: Ubaldo Jimenez may have pitched himself out of the Orioles’ starting rotation.

It’s been a common refrain ever since Jimenez joined the Orioles in 2014 on a four-year, $50 million free-agent contract. With every string of bad outings, every frustrating bout of wildness and ineffectiveness, fans have called for Jimenez’s removal.

Manager Buck Showalter and the Orioles’ brass tend to preach patience, especially with their veterans. They trust their players’ track records and give them ample opportunity to find their footing. And often, their faith is rewarded.

Jimenez, however, may not be giving the Orioles much of a choice but to make a change.

His latest disastrous outing came Monday when, staked to a five-run lead against the Twins, Jimenez coughed it up without recording an out in the fifth inning. He gave back a run apiece in the third and fourth, then surrendered four consecutive hits to start the fifth. Jimenez’s collapse happened so quickly that Showalter barely had time to get reliever Tyler Wilson warmed up.

By the time Showalter gave Jimenez the hook, the Twins had shaved the Orioles’ lead to 6-4 and had two runners in scoring position with nobody out. Both inherited runs scored off Wilson, leaving Jimenez with six earned runs charged to his line.

“They just came out swinging,” Jimenez said. “It was one of those nights that everything you threw, they just found a way to (have) a good at-bat.”

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Jimenez’s season ERA now sits at an unsightly 7.17 in nine games (eight starts). He’s walked 25 batters and allowed 48 hits in 42 2/3 innings. He has just one quality start this year, and only two outings longer than five innings.

“Obviously, the results aren’t very good, and a lot of it is some balls in the center of the plate,” Showalter said. “Not many counts in his favor. Hasn’t really had consistent out pitches.”

Not only has Jimenez been putting the Orioles in an early hole nearly every time out — or, in Monday’s case, squandering a big advantage — but his frequent early exits have put tremendous strain on the club’s often shorthanded bullpen.

His poor outings may be having an emotional effect, conscious or not, on the rest of the club as well. After Jimenez let the Orioles’ lead slip away Monday, the bullpen was raked for six runs in the sixth, an inning that featured a Jonathan Schoop error and a Stefan Crichton balk in which he dropped the ball during his delivery. And the Orioles’ offense, which had erupted for six runs in the first four innings, went quiet, held to one run for the rest of the game.

Granted, it’s unfair to pin the entire team’s troubles on Jimenez. But his pitching performance hasn’t improved, and he’s quickly using up the long leash the Orioles have given him.

So where do the Orioles go from here?

The club likely won’t make any immediate decisions regarding Jimenez’s future. As expected, Showalter’s post-game press conference gave no indication of whether the Orioles were considering a change.

“Certainly I understand that the production hasn’t been there like it needs to be,” Showalter said. “And if there’s adjustments to be made, we’ll make them. But I’m certainly not going to talk about things like that in this setting. But I understand that’s a question we ask every time we have some consistent struggles at a certain part of our game.”

With a day off Thursday, the Orioles can skip Jimenez’s next turn through the rotation and won’t need a fifth starter until May 30.

If the Orioles opt not to continue pressing their luck with Jimenez, the top candidate to replace him may be Alec Asher. Asher made two starts for the club earlier this season — both quality starts — and has been pitching well in long relief.

Beyond Asher, there aren’t a lot of obvious candidates. Jayson Aquino beat the Red Sox in his one start for the Orioles this year, but he’s been struggling at Triple-A Norfolk with a 5.13 ERA. Gabriel Ynoa, who just came off the DL and was optioned to Norfolk, has a 6.65 ERA in five starts for the Tides.

In fact, no regular Norfolk starter has an ERA below 4.00. The best mark belongs to Mike Wright (4.13 ERA in nine starts), but his repeated struggles as a starter in the big leagues may make the Orioles hesitant to consider him.

There’s also another sensitive subject to consider: If you bounce Jimenez from the rotation, what do you do with him?

Would the Orioles move him to the bullpen? He pitched well in a three-inning emergency relief stint in Boston on May 3, but he hasn’t fared well as a reliever throughout his career, compiling a 6.41 ERA in 10 outings.

“There’s always that possibility,” Showalter said. “Is it good for the bullpen? That’s another question.”

The other option, of course, is to simply cut ties with Jimenez by releasing him or designating him for assignment. In past years, the Orioles never seriously considered doing so. With his expensive contract, the club didn’t want to give up on him when there was a possibility he could rebound sometime down the road.

Now, it’s a different story. Jimenez is in the final year of his contract. There are no future seasons to consider. If the Orioles are convinced he can’t turn things around, it’s possible they’d eat the $10 million or so remaining on his deal.

It’s a tough situation. Jimenez is a consummate professional and one of the most well-liked, well-respected players in the Orioles’ clubhouse. Fans calling for his immediate release need to understand the human element and the emotions involved. It’s not a decision the Orioles will make lightly.

But Jimenez is the first to admit that he hasn’t done his job on the field. And now he may be forcing the Orioles’ hand.

“Of course I don’t feel good because of the way I’ve been pitching. I know it’s not enough,” Jimenez said. “The only thing I can do is prepare for my next game, whatever it is. I can’t control that.”

30 Comments

30 Comments

  1. Creatively_19

    May 23, 2017 at 1:01 am

    Thank you Paul for writing the Ubaldo Jiminez story that Dan won’t. I think everyone else knows the O’s are a better team without him starting every 5th game, just in case he happens to turn it around.

    • Dan Connolly

      May 23, 2017 at 1:26 am

      I’ve gotta be honest 19. I would have written something similar Monday night if I had been at the stadium (personal commitment) and I’ll probably write my thoughts soon anyway. But there’s no defending keeping him in the rotation. None at this point. The only reason you keep him on the roster at all is because he is still owed $10 million and the light can suddenly go on with him. But that leash in the bullpen has to be very short. I’ve defended him for years because of the money owed and the streaks he goes on (and his performance in the final two months last year proved my point) but he can’t be near the rotation right now. I admit when I’m wrong.

      • Creatively_19

        May 23, 2017 at 2:28 pm

        Sorry if I was giving you a hard time Dan. I know we’ve had our history on Ubaldo, and as an O’s fan I’m sorry it’s not working out like you were hoping. As for now, he’s still on this team and the books not closed on him yet, so I’m sure he’ll have a few more good moments as an Oriole as long as Buck keeps running him out to the mound.

    • Boog Robinson Robinson

      May 23, 2017 at 8:27 am

      Hey, this is Dan’s site. Stop picking on our hero 19! “Writing the Ubaldo Jiminez story that Dan won’t” are some pretty presumptuous and hollow words. You got a problem with his work … get a subscription and read Schmuck.

      • Creatively_19

        May 23, 2017 at 2:30 pm

        I do have a subscription to the Sun, Boog, I actually like reading Dan’s writing more though. Most of his opinions are good, as is his book, but I still can disagree with him on some points.

        • Boog Robinson Robinson

          May 23, 2017 at 3:03 pm

          Nothing personal here 19 .. but you weren’t “disagreeing” with Dan. You were challenging his reporting chops by insinuating that he was ducking a tough and what could be a touchy/uncomfortable subject.

          • Creatively_19

            May 23, 2017 at 3:10 pm

            TBH I never thought Dan was ducking the story, I just never believed he’d have the same viewpoint that Paul expressed. I can see how it came across that way, so my apologies

          • Boog Robinson Robinson

            May 23, 2017 at 3:13 pm

            Hey 19 .. I double dog apologize. Most everything I post here is said tongue-in-cheek. Perhaps it’s doesn’t always come across that way. We’re all birds of a feather eh?

    • Dan Connolly

      May 23, 2017 at 8:47 am

      Thanks Boog. But that’s OK. I knew some people would think if I didn’t write about the Jimenez situation I’m ducking it. Certainly not the case. But I was vocal that I thought he’d pitch fairly well this year and that hasn’t happened. Another blown lead early has to be the straw that sends him to the bullpen. Or maybe further away.

    • Dan Connolly

      May 23, 2017 at 9:18 am

      Boog makes a good point, tho. It is my site. If I, for some reason, wanted to ignore the Ubaldo elephant, I wouldn’t have published Paul’s piece — it all goes to me first — but that’s not how things work around here.

    • slava1351

      May 23, 2017 at 3:59 pm

      They dropped Miguel Gonzales, who is a great guy and was very well liked by both players and fans, without a second thought. And Miguel had options and could have been sent to the minors to work out his problems. Then when Ubaldo, Wilson and Wright turned out to be terrible we were told over and over that there is no starting pitching talent in the minor leagues. Why is it that they could cut Gonzales, who was actually a quality pitcher and part of the turnaround here in Baltimore but they can’t touch Ubaldo, or Wilson for that matter. Wilson has been terrible.

  2. Bancells Moustache

    May 23, 2017 at 6:15 am

    I hate to say “I told you so”, although when everyone else in the State of Maryland not named Duquette or Showalter has also “told you so”, it does lose a bit of it’s sting. Ubaldo Jimenez should have been gone the moment Edwin Encarnacion touched home plate last October. That was the time. You take the haircut then, the fanbase understands you had to cut a guy loose after playing a central role in the biggest debacle since 1979 and we all move on. The Orioles wouldn’t do it. Now, in a division with zero margin for error, Baltimore insists​ on trotting out a pitcher who, 80 percent of the time, is guaranteed to be the worst pitcher in professional baseball,all in the vain hope he gives you the good performance he provides 20 percent of the time. A championship team does not take that risk. New York is the real thing. Boston is still Boston, and Toronto is too talented for me to believe their slow start. Last night could end up being the one game the Orioles miss the playoffs by this fall. Or maybe that will be the next Ubaldo start. Or the one after the two hitter he will throw that makes everyone say ‘he’s getting it together’ and we do this for another month. Stop the madness. Swallow your damn pride and let him go.

    • Bancells Moustache

      May 23, 2017 at 6:28 am

      And yes, I intentionally didn’t throw in the obligatory mention of what a great guy Jimenez is, because I don’t care. We’re not hiring a minister. I don’t care if a guy cuts in front of old ladies in the Safeway checkout line, if he gets guys out that’s all that matters.

    • Dan Connolly

      May 23, 2017 at 9:01 am

      Couple things Stache. Plenty of teams — contenders or not — have long leashes on veteran starters in May. Look at Josh Tomlin in Cleveland this season or CC Sabathia in NYY in various seasons. In our minds’ eye, Jimenez has been terrible since he signed the contract. Truth is in 2015 he won 12 games and had a 4.11 ERA — that’s respectable for a season (not worth $50M, of course). And last year he was the club’s most consistent starter down the stretch — a sub-3.00 ERA in the final two months. Good guy or not, big salary or minimum, he deserved a shot this year. He got it. He hasn’t seized it. So someone else now deserves it. That’s the way I see it anyway.

  3. karks

    May 23, 2017 at 8:03 am

    He just can’t be in this rotation anymore. It’s hurting the team. I don’t care whether it’s one of the younger guys in AAA or if they can snag a veteran somehow, but he’s got to go.

    • Dan Connolly

      May 23, 2017 at 9:04 am

      I agree about the rotation part. I guess I’d probably put him in the pen for a week or so and see if that is a disaster, but, frankly it has been in the past. His problems as a starter are often compounded in the bullpen.

  4. Boog Robinson Robinson

    May 23, 2017 at 8:13 am

    Call me the village idiot, but I’m OK with taking Ubaldo to the pen, however in no way do you simply cut the man. I’ve always maintained that I’d go down with Ubaldo than replace him with Wilson or Wright, and he backed up my faith in him last year. He’s a 2nd half pitcher, and I’m sticking with him through the year and the contract.

    Now if you want to give Asher or Ynoa or somebody not named Wright or Wilson a chance to win that spot in the rotation right now … so be it. But don’t cut ties with him at this point.

    • Dan Connolly

      May 23, 2017 at 9:05 am

      There are $10 million reasons backing your point up — as well as that track record of sudden success after a disaster.

      • slava1351

        May 23, 2017 at 4:35 pm

        Ubaldo needs to go to the trainer and say that he has tightness in his shoulder. He needs to go on DL and then be sent to the minors for a few rehab starts to work on his mechanics.

    • Paul Folkemer

      May 23, 2017 at 9:36 am

      Boog, I don’t agree that Ubaldo is a second half pitcher. Looking at his career splits, he’s been pretty much equal in the first half (4.24 ERA) and second half (4.16).

      Last year, certainly, Ubaldo was much better in the second half than the first. But the year before that, it was exactly the opposite. He got off to a hot start (2.81 ERA in the first half) and then collapsed in the second half (5.63).

      Jimenez is so wildly inconsistent that there’s no rhyme or reason to when he’s going to pitch well and when he’s going to struggle. I’m not sure it’s worthwhile to hang on to him all season in hopes that he’ll somehow turn it around, unless the Orioles see something behind the scenes that convinces them he’s close to making a breakthrough.

      • Boog Robinson Robinson

        May 23, 2017 at 11:30 am

        What were his splits his last year in Cleveland?

        Maybe I should say he’s a warm weather guy. I dunno, it’s a gut feeling. One thing I CAN tell you though, he’s a major league talent, something that I can’t say for Wright or Wilson.

        Cut this guy, and he’ll end up biting us in the butt wearing pinstripes or red sox over the 2nd half.

        • Paul Folkemer

          May 23, 2017 at 11:39 am

          His last year in Cleveland (2013), he was much better in the second half. But the year before that (and the two years after that), he was much better in the first half than the second.

          Again, there’s no rhyme or reason to his splits. You never know when his stretches of good starts are coming — or if they’re going to happen at all. But you can’t wait around forever.

          And yes, it’s certainly possible that if the Orioles cut Jimenez, he could find success with another team. If another team wants to take that gamble and see if they can straighten him out, more power to them. Honestly, maybe a change of scenery would be the best thing for both the Orioles and Jimenez. It’s not working out for him in Baltimore.

          • Boog Robinson Robinson

            May 23, 2017 at 2:39 pm

            Like I said, I have no problem with sending him the bullpen … for now or even permanently.
            What I AM saying is that if you’re going to part ways and free up a spot on the 40 man roster, wouldn’t Wright, Wilson or any one of another half dozen or so choices be better suited to go on their way? At least with Ubaldo, as witnessed by past performance, there is a good chance that he’ll right the ship and make a contribution before all is said and done this year. If nothing else, he seems a perfect fit for a long relief/inning eating-mop up role while you try out Asher/Ynoa or Lee in the rotation. The guy is a team player, a professional and if nothing else, a good example to the Mike Wrights of the world as to how to comport yourself at this level.

    • Creatively_19

      May 23, 2017 at 2:46 pm

      Boog said: At least with Ubaldo, as witnessed by past performance, there is a good chance that he’ll right the ship and make a contribution before all is said and done this year.

      How many losses do you take in order to get that 1 gem from Ubaldo that might or might not be coming? At what point do you say its not worth it? He’s owed approximately $7.3 million dollars, at some point you have to make the decision that you can’t pay him to make the team worse, which he does almost every time he steps on the mound.

      • Boog Robinson Robinson

        May 23, 2017 at 2:57 pm

        Hey Nineteen! (pardon me Steely Dan) …. Do you deny he carried the staff if not the team into the playoffs last August / September? This is what I’m talking about with “past performance”. Did you want to cut him then as well? All I’m saying is to send him to the pen until you have a proven replacement part. That’s all I’m saying. They did it last year … it worked. You never have enough starting pitching. But like I said .. call me the village idiot.

  5. afterp

    May 23, 2017 at 9:39 am

    Put him in the bullpen in case he figures it out for the second half, fine. Or cut him – at this point I’m over it.

    Equally important is that Tyler Wilson should never pitch for the Orioles again. Throwing gas onto an ever growing fire.

    Start throwing stuff at the wall and see what sticks. Edwin Jackson, Chris Lee, Yacobonis, Sedlock. Sink or swim.

  6. Osfan73

    May 23, 2017 at 9:45 am

    No Ubaldo they didn’t “just come out swinging”, the game I watched last night he was behind in the count way too often and saw alot of first pitch ball one, then the Twins proceeded to swing. Enough of his excuses, this is the major league level and he is now just an embarassment every time out to the team and himself.

    • Dan Connolly

      May 23, 2017 at 10:09 am

      I’ll say this about Jimenez. He doesn’t really make excuses. He tries to explain why he was bad, but I wouldn’t call them excuses.

  7. Osfan73

    May 23, 2017 at 9:52 am

    With Zach out and Ubaldo pitching like this it’s essentially like being down 2 pitchers, and while I agree the choices for replacement are few , giving someone else a chance is a far better option right now.

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