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Waving goodbye to Ubaldo Jimenez at the Corner of Carnegie and Ontario?

Waving goodbye to Ubaldo Jimenez at the Corner of Carnegie and Ontario?
April 17, 2013
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Ubaldo Jimenez has certainly become a lightning rod for the Cleveland Indians, and I'm trying to get away from the trees here at the Corner of Carnegie and Ontario.

You know the M.O. when you hear his name. We traded two high commodity prospects for him. He has lost velocity. He can’t throw a strike. His delivery is terrible. He’s much too passive on the mound. There are too many moving parts.

On Tuesday night, all of that was in full evidence.

Jimenez went 1 2/3 innings, giving up two hits, seven earned runs, and five walks. His pitch count was at 59, and less than half of his pitches were strikes. He was terrible.

I know this isn’t an earth-shattering statement, but looking at Ubaldo Jimenez as an ace just isn’t realistic. What you can hope for from the Indians’ starter is that he can become a serviceable starter. You hope that he can find a way to make it through six innings. The fact is, at this point, you have to hope that he can make it through five innings.

It’s just not good.

You got a sense that there were issues heading into Tuesday when Ubaldo’s scheduled start on Saturday was pushed back to Tuesday. I’m sure that the Carlos Carrasco incident played a part in the move, but there were rumblings that Ubaldo’s delivery had regressed since a nice spring training, and that pitching coach Mickey Callaway needed to work out some of those flaws.

Jimenez had a bullpen session on Saturday, and all parties involved said that the righty was “ready.”

He clearly wasn’t.

I don’t think there is a full-time fix for Jimenez at this point in his career in Cleveland. It’s simple knowledge that habits are really hard to break, and that certainly isn’t different for a major league pitcher. Sometimes a scene change can alter performance. Sometimes a new coaching staff can give a pitcher a different look. The simple fact of the matter though is that it’s really, REALLY hard for a pitcher to reinvent themselves or re-discover lost skills.

Sure, it does happen, and Ubaldo even has moments where you think he’s back.

The problem now is that his starts have become a shell game, with the victories proving to be the sleight of hand. This rotation can’t afford that.

Where do the Indians go with Ubaldo?

They could move him to the bullpen. Who then will take his place? Do you bring up Corey Kluber as your new fifth starter? Do you bring up Trevor Bauer, who seems close, but not yet ready? Do you bring up Daisuke Matsuzaka, who’s been lit up pretty good in Columbus? Do you bring up David Huff, who is in Triple A limbo, and who has now been mentioned as a potential bullpen arm? Do you make a trade for a starter like Ted Lilly, who’s making one more rehab start for the Dodgers? Seriously…do we want Ubaldo Jimenez in the bullpen?

They could release him, but all of the same questions above would need to be answered. A move like that would also officially close that 2011 deadline deal for Jimenez on the Indians’ side, and it clearly would end in complete and utter failure (yeah, it’s already a year-by-year failure, but such is life). This truly is my preference. You can talk about sample size all day long, and sure, this year’s sample size is only three games, but you can’t exclude his entire tenure with the Indians. It’s been dreadful. You can count his good starts on one hand, and he has had a couple truly great starts. The fact that the hope now is for him simply to get to the pen makes him expendable. Truly, is he better than Corey Kluber? The fact that you can truly debate that says it all.

They could give him four or five more starts to see if he can replicate the corrections in his delivery that Callaway has been pushing for since becoming the Indians pitching coach at the end of 2012. We all know the end-game there though, don’t we? He may even be able to rebound from his Tuesday start and put together a few good ones. Even if he does, is he a starter that can continue that over an extended period of time?

I just don’t think so.

The problem with Ubaldo’s collapse is that it really puts an already suspect rotation at a teetering point, and it’s only April 17th. The Indians came into 2013 with a suspect rotation, but with a bunch of starters that had lots and lots of questions to be answered that the Indians figured they had a couple of months to try and siphon through to figure out just what they would need in July, should they have to make a trade. Unfortunately, they’ve already burned through most of them.

Trevor Bauer has the stuff, but he’s not mentally there yet. Let him tie that up, and he could be an answer in July. I think optimally, the Indians want to keep him down one more season, but July would be the earliest.

Carlos Carrasco had his chance, and he’s likely not even going to be a thought until July. To top it off, he has an eight-game suspension to deal with, which means the Indians are going to essentially have to be a 24-man team for a week to get to the kid. He has one more shot with the Indians though, and I do think they’ll get creative if they need him. We’ll see. He was near perfect the other day in Columbus, so his stuff is unquestioned. His head, on the other head, is all questions.

Dice-K just hasn’t been pitching well. How long has it been since he’s been relevant? I think the Indians will see him soon, but I just don’t think that he’s a long term solution as a player, let alone as a starter for the Indians.

Corey Kluber is a minor league pitcher. His stuff is decent. I don’t see the electricity that others seem to, and I never have. Perhaps there is some magic there for spot starts, but I don’t even buy that.

Unless the Indians make a move, I just don’t see this rotation changing very much. I have to believe that Ubaldo is with the Indians until both Bauer and Carrasco are ready, and even at that point, I’m not sure he’d be first on the list to move. Myers is capable of moving to the pen, and Kazmir is hardly reliable.

Boy, the fact that we are depending on Kazmir is a concern, and I still believe he could turn into our best starter.

Well, other than the fact that Justin Masterson has been off the charts. I truly don’t know what to think of Masterson over the long haul. His stuff is just wicked. When he’s pounding the zone, and when he has control of his stuff, he’s a top five or ten guy in the league. The guy is just dominant. He can throw mid-90’s, and he can hit all four sides of the zone. When he gets it moving, he’s devastating. I wouldn’t be surprised if Masterson rolls out a no hitter or two in his career if he can maintain consistency.

Of course, the flip side to Masterson is when he’s not hitting the zone. Is he capable of pitching through that?

I keep thinking of just how devastating Fausto Carmona was in 2007, and wonder if Masterson isn’t ready for that type of season. The key to consistency though is not only hitting the strike zone, but being able to be effective when he can’t. When he figures that out, he’ll be one of the top pitchers in the league.

The Indians need to sign him to a long-term deal.

Injuries surely haven’t been talked about all that much, but the Tribe sure has been dealing with them.

Lou Marson has missed time. Chris Perez came into the season after an injury. Carlos Santana has missed time. Scott Kazmir has missed time. Jason Kipnis is out. Now, Michael Bourn is heading outta dodge to the DL. It’s April 17th. You always worry about seasons in which injuries derail a year. With the pitching staff struggling, the offense has to blow up. It can’t right now, because the Indians just can’t seem to put their entire nine on the field.

Perhaps this will just be an April thing.

Cord Phelps is finally getting his chance, and it will be interesting to see what he does with it. If you remember back a couple of years ago, Phelps and Kipnis were both rounding out in Columbus at the same time, and while Kipnis had a lot of hype, there was a feeling in the organization that they were very similar players. Two years later, Kipnis is rooted in Cleveland, and Phelps has been languishing in Columbus.

Enter 2013, and Kipnis has been struggling since last August, and is hurting. Could Phelps bump out Kipnis? My guess here is that the Indians’ brass will never let that happen. If Phelps rolls out a solid performance in what could be limited time, it could be interesting to see how the Indians handle it.

Phelps can hit, but he can struggle defensively. My personal belief is that Phelps could provide the Indians a chance to move Kipnis back to Columbus to get it right if Phelps starts hitting. Is he a long-term answer? I just don’t see him as a full-time guy, but you do never know. I could see Phelps playing well enough to make a guy like Ryan Raburn ultimately expendable. He’s not the fielder that Raburn is, but his potential bat would be a plus. It’s hard to see where that balance is though with regards to need. I’d prefer the defender in that spot, but if Phelps is clicking, he has a really good bat.

Fact is, I’d love to see Phelps and Kipnis both on this roster. It’s good to see him get his chance. The next three or four weeks should be interesting in the shaping of this team.

The Rearviewmirror:

The Cleveland Indians of 2013 aren’t even shaped yet. The way this team looks on June and July first will likely be vastly different than it looks now, particularly with the rotation. If the Indians can manage to stay in the picture until mid-June, I think they could see a major boost of talent in July and beyond from within the organization, and from trades. They just have to get there.

If you haven’t been paying attention, take a look at the Carolina Mudcat lineup. There are some sleeper guys there along with a hot-hitting Francisco Lindor. Keep an eye on Joseph Wendle and Jerrud Sabourin. Those two aren’t explosive players, but boy are they hitting the ball well. I’m a minor league guy at heart, and I love seeing guys that aren’t routinely talked about doing out-of-the-routine things. I hope this lasts through the summer, because these guys can legitimately hit. I’m not sure they’re ultimately major league guys, but the tone could change with big seasons in Carolina and Akron.

Of course it’s April…

…United with Boston…hearts and thoughts to all the families and to the City of Boston…

It’s a beautiful day for baseball…everybody…

Jim is currently the senior editor and Columnist, as well as  the host of IBI's weekly online radio shows, Smoke Signals and Cleveland Sports Insiders. You can follow Jim on Twitter @Jim_IBI, or contact him via e-mail at jpete@indiansprospectinsider.com.

User Comments

beestang
April 20, 2013 - 11:42 AM EDT
Ubaldo can and would refuse a trip to the minors so the only thing to do is release him outright, eat his contract and move on. I don't think he's salvageable, at least not here. We're in last place and can't afford to watch him continue to lose games as he tries to work out his mechanics here. Shame on Shapiro and Antonetti for not addressing starting pitching in the off-season. Bret Myers?? Please.... he hadn't pitched more than two innings in over a season and never got stretched out this spring. He's pathetic. Not sure what the immediate answer is, but it's definitely NOT these two.
Roger
April 18, 2013 - 6:40 PM EDT
Ubaldo is a smart guy if i remember correctly he aspires to be orthopedic surgeon. maybe he would take a month in columbus to get fixed mechanically. I dont think anyone will claim him and yes he gets paid if he declares for free agency he may fine no takers so that makes him done b4 age 30. He may take the demotion to work out the mechanics in less stressful situation i saw his face in the dug out he is frustrated and may be at the point where he will take the demotion if for a specified period of time.
yourtribe
April 17, 2013 - 6:35 PM EDT
agree on ubaldo. release him and move on. you pay him either way, so no sense in keeping him and killing us. I begged for the tribe to do the same with hafner two yrs ago. hafner was and ubaldo is a wasted roster spot.
Ubaldo Sucks
April 17, 2013 - 5:21 PM EDT
Ubaldo sucks and the Indians need to move on. Spending another minute thinking about what to do with him is a minute that is better spent on something else. Release this chump and let's move on.
Canadian Joe
April 17, 2013 - 5:12 PM EDT
A trade now shows desperation, but, is that not where we are now. Desperate for a starter who can give us innings and keep us in ballgames. May have to overpay, but that's the situation we are in. My other thought, and I've said this before, stretch Barnes out and look at him. How much worse can he be ? And he's a lefty to boot. What is there to lose ?
Mike
April 17, 2013 - 4:47 PM EDT
For now until the moment Ubaldo is released (or magically improves) he's our fifth starter, whcih I think is where they've got him slotted right now.

Frankly, the bigger problem right now than Ubaldo's failure is Carlos Carrasco's throwing at opposing players and the bind he has the team in with his looming suspension. But that's OT.

We need to take a look at trading players, even potentially players on the ML roster, for a #2-3 pitcher (which I define as someone who can deliver 185 innings at a sub 4 ERA. If an opportunity arises, that'll be great, and in the meantime I intend to watch with avid enjoyment what will be a productive offense, a darn good bullpen, an outstanding defense and a couple of good starters.
shy
April 17, 2013 - 4:05 PM EDT
Problems cannot be solved by the same level of awareness that created them. No, not me, it was Einstein came up w that. But if we apply this principle to the Indians pitching now, here is what I get. Give Ubaldo one more start max, but don't get bamboozled if he pitches 5 innings of 4 hit ball that he is a stud. As the head duck on Duck Dynasty said about his slovenly middle-aged wife." Marge used to be a 105 pound cheerleader in highschool but them days is GONE!" Calloway, Belcher, Radinsky, Niebla, Lee Mazzone I don't care who is not going to tweek Ubaldo's delivery into anything that is going to confound major league hitters anymoret. So in the meantime, while we're waiting to see who steps up among Kazmir, Carrasco, Bauer how about a reliever platoon? 3 relievers in Columbus pitched a shutout a few nights ago. How about we go Langwell, Barnes, and Shaw? or maybe Allen? Langwell can get guys out, doesn't meltdown, keeps you in the game. The Indians have enough relievers who can do the job for 3 innings a piece and give the team a chance to win.. Yeah I know it's unconventional. but it just might work until we can figure out something better. I really don''t want to see Ubaldo out there again- he's poison.
Lisa
April 17, 2013 - 3:45 PM EDT
I don't see how we can afford to keep Ubaldo around a whole lot longer, he's killing us. Kluber may not be great but I don't see him bouncing multiple pitches or walking everyone in sight. And what about Huff, he could hardly be as bad as well. Sometimes you just have to cut your losses, I'd move Ubaldo for a bag of balls if someone would pick up some of his salary.

I have liked Phelps since college, I do have faith he'll hit, especially if he feels somewhat secure in his continuing role up here.
Seth
April 17, 2013 - 3:31 PM EDT
I suppose someone like Houston or Miami might sign him. I don't know though, if there's any team that needs starters it's the Cleveland Indians, and at least us fans don't want him near our rotation. The front office view may be different, but spending even $500k on a guy who's been below replacement level for over a year and is seemingly continuing to decline doesn't seem wise ... pretty much by definition, any guy you already have in AAA would be expected to do better.

Got to think with 2-3 more starts like the last two, he's released regardless. I root for the guy and would love to see him turn it around, but without something drastic like an extended trip back to the minors it will be pretty shocking to see him turn it around. I don't see a move to the bullpen in Cleveland working either, because who would you bump out of the bullpen? Hagadone, Hill, Perez, Pestano, Smith and Shaw would seem pretty set in stone right now, and Albers is making a good chunk of change.
Jim
April 17, 2013 - 3:20 PM EDT
Seth...I think they should release him now. It's time...I could care a less about him clearing or not...

...and I do think someone would claim him...

...not even really sure why I think that...but I do...
Tony
April 17, 2013 - 3:18 PM EDT
Ubaldo would definitely decline and some team somewhere would take a shot on him for a min deal ($490K). He'd get picked up in a second by a team looking for a starter and on a min deal. If he doesn't pan out, they release him for little to not cost.
Seth
April 17, 2013 - 3:13 PM EDT
I don't think there's any team that would sign Ubaldo as a free agent and place him on their major league roster, so I don't know that there's an advantage to him to decline an outright assignment. I would hope they at least discuss this possibility with him. It would probably be best for him and the Indians if he could work on his stuff in the minors.
Tony
April 17, 2013 - 3:02 PM EDT
Only way the Indians would be off the hook for his remaining salary would be if he were claimed by another team off waivers. If they DFA him and he declares free agency, they are still responsible for his remaining salary for this season.
Daingean
April 17, 2013 - 2:53 PM EDT
Tony if that were to happen, would the Tribe be off the hook for his salary? As he would be the one to become a free agent...

Still think its too early to step off the ledge but it is time to start formulating action plans.
Tony
April 17, 2013 - 2:51 PM EDT
If the Indians placed Ubaldo on waivers and he cleared, he could decline an outright assignment to the minors (and likely would)....which would make him a free agent to sign with any team.
Seth
April 17, 2013 - 2:35 PM EDT
Isn't there another option, DFA him and send him to Columbus? The reason you normally can't do this is that you don't want to lose the pitcher through waivers. And it's not like Ubaldo has options, he's lucky to have any major league job at this point. I would have to think the Indians would a.) love to lose Ubaldo and his $5 million through waivers and b.) the chances anyone claims him are zero. Heck, at this point I'd rather have Huff in the rotation, and no one claimed Huff.

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