CHICAGO – A day after being demoted to the bullpen for the first time in his major league career, the disappointment in Orioles right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez’s voice was unmistakable.
When Jimenez signed a four-year, $50 million deal with the Orioles in February, he said he wanted to help the club get back to the World Series. And he said before Wednesday’s game against the Chicago White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field that he will do everything he can to keep that goal.
“It's a little bit disappointing, it's a little bit hard, but like I say, we're all here for the same thing, and that's hopefully getting us into the World Series,” Jimenez said. “This is no time to be selfish or to be putting your head down, like this is the end of the world. You have to keep going for the team.”
Jimenez hasn’t pitched in relief since his major league debut nearly eight years ago on Sept. 26, 2006.
“I guess it’s pretty much the same thing,” Jimenez said. “You have to be pitching to hitters. Probably the first time I’ve been doing it, but it’s never too late. I have to find a way to go with it. … Hopefully, whenever there's a chance, I have to try to do my best. That's why we're here. That's why we're all here, to help the team make the playoffs.”
Jimenez likely will be used as a long reliever, at least initially. He probably won’t be put in any high-pressure situations, especially because he leads the American League with 66 walks despite missing more than a month with a right ankle sprain. But Jimenez will have to find a way to make the adjustment from career starter to likely mop-up man for now.
“It's my understanding that there probably won't be a lot of opportunities, so I have to do anything possible to get ready, like probably when I play catch, after the games to throw a little bit to the catchers so I can be ready,” Jimenez said.
Jimenez, who is 4-9 with a 4.83 ERA in 20 starts this season, allowed nine earned runs in 10 1/3 innings in two starts since returning from the disabled list. The Orioles are 7-13 in games he has started this season.
With right-hander Miguel Gonzalez ready to return to the major leagues, Jimenez was the obvious odd man out in the rotation. Gonzalez was optioned to the minors when Jimenez returned from the DL earlier this month.
“It’s been a tough [season],” Jimenez said. “But it’s part of baseball. Baseball is hard. There is nothing easy about it. You have to find a way to keep going and be ready for whenever the team needs me.
“They are doing whatever is best for the team. The guys have been pitching really good in the rotation, and definitely we all want to do the same thing, and that’s making the playoffs and putting the team in the best position.”
Buck Showalter didn’t rule out Jimenez receiving a start down the stretch, especially if the Orioles manager wants to give one of the other starters an extra day of rest. The Orioles will play 20 straight days following Thursday’s day off.
“Who knows? He may start next week. I don’t know,” Showalter said. “That’s where he’s going to be right now [in the bullpen], but we’ll see where the needs of the club are. … I don’t want him to go too long without pitching. If the team needs him to start, he’ll start.” …
“There are a lot of variables involved. If he has that need initially, then yes. He could be probably more length to start off with. But if he has a need where he needs to pitch, and it’s been too long, we’ll bring him in if the game dictates it.”
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