If you want a good early sign for 2016, it’s this: Ubaldo Jimenez turned a shaky beginning into a very solid performance Thursday.
He started this year nearly as strong as he began last season – seven scoreless innings of one hit ball last April 11 against Toronto – and that’s encouraging news because April is historically his toughest month.
On Thursday, Jimenez allowed a solo homer in the first inning to Minnesota’s Joe Mauer. In the second, the Twins scored on a groundout set up by a Chris Davis error.
After three innings, Jimenez already had allowed six hits – it looked like it would be an early night for the right-hander and that his April woes would continue.
Heading into last night, Jimenez’s highest ERA for any month is April (4.81), despite pitching superbly in last season’s first month (1.59 ERA in four starts).
After getting an inning-ending double play in Thursday’s third, though, Jimenez cruised, retiring 12 of his final 14, including seven of those by strikeout.
“You can go through a lot of different things in that game,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “But Ubaldo was the key. He was solid.”
Jimenez allowed eight hits, one earned run and struck out nine in seven innings. How dominating was he? Consider he matched his 2015 season high in strikeouts in his first game of the year.
Even a bigger deal is that he didn’t walk anyone. In 32 starts last year, he only had five games without a walk.
“It made me feel good. I’m not one of those pitchers that’s going to have pinpoint command,” Jimenez said. “Definitely every time I have a game like that without a walk it makes me feel good. Because I know I’m in a good place with my mechanics and everything.”
A confident Jimenez in a good place with mechanics is a dangerous Jimenez – and a great early sign for the Orioles.