SARASOTA, FLA. — Right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez hopes that he can carry over the success he saw late last season after making a few subtle mechanical adjustments to his delivery when he was sent to the bullpen.
Jimenez drew praise from manager Buck Showalter for his first spring training bullpen session on Monday. Last August, Jimenez adjusted his delivery, no longer lifting his hands over and behind his head, which he said he helped him stay forward and improved his control.
"It was all about not going over the top of my head because I was going way too far and that makes my mechanics go everywhere, so right now I'm able to simplify everything by grabbing the ball and just going straight to home plate," Jimenez said. "Once I saw everything was working, I was staying with it and I'm not changing anything. I'm not trying to be like, 'Oh no, this is not my mechanics. I'm going to go back.' No. I'm going to do everything that's made me better."
"Felt really good," Jimenez said of his first spring bullpen session. "Everything felt really smooth. Something that I did, I threw like five bullpens before I came over here, back in the Orioles' complex in the Dominican. I went there and threw bullpens and then I threw a live batting practice to make sure when I got here my mechanics would be a little bit better. I stuck with what I was doing at the end of last year and everything feels good."
Jimenez signed during spring training last year and said in retrospect it probably hurt him in preparing for the season. He was 6-9 with a 4.81 ERA and 77 walks over 125 1/3 innings in his first year of a four-year, $50-milion contract.
"It changed everything because I didn't prepare as I used to," he said. "I didn't throw bullpens until I came here to spring training. I didn't throw in a game. I didn't throw anything.
"The thing is I need to do that. Every year before I come to spring training, I usually throw a lot of bullpens. I throw live batting practice. I throw even in games. Last year was the only time I didn't do that because I didn't sign on time. That's something that I put into my mind, too. I'm trying to make new mechanics. Every time I get on the mound, it makes it easier to forget about old mechanics."
Jimenez was also asked about his decision to leave the club during last season's ALCS when he was left off the postseason roster.
"Yeah, it was tough because I wanted to be part of the team," he said. "I wasn't on the roster, and then I had to go home and had some business to take care of."
The Orioles won their arbitration hearing with outfielder Alejandro De Aza on Saturday. De Aza, whose hearing was Friday in St. Petersburg, Fla., will make $5 million in 2015 in his final season of arbitration eligibility.
De Aza was the only one of the Orioles' 11 arbitration-eligible players to go to arbitration.
The Orioles and De Aza were just $650,000 apart on salary figures.
Orioles general counsel H. Russell Smouse improved his record to arbitration hearings to 8-0. The Orioles have lost just one arbitration hearing since managing partner Peter G. Angelos took over the team, a loss to Ben McDonald in 1995. The team is 11-1 under Angelos.
Along with Smouse, the Orioles' arbitration team also consisted of director of baseball operations Tripp Norton and director of major league administration Ned Rice.
Veteran left-hander Mark Hendrickson, who was signed to a minor league deal with a spring invite after having a tryout last month at minicamp, said he is open to starting the season in Triple-A.
"I come in here with realistic expectations," the 40-year-old Hendrickson said. "Obviously, I know what they did last year and the guys should be commended on how far they got and how much success they had. They're going to get ready for the season. For me, if I start in Triple-A, it's one step closer than I was last season. I'm OK with that is that's the case. Obviously, that's not going to change my preparation. It's to continue to go out there and develop my pitches and get ready. But I've always had the goal of April 1 [being] my target date every year just to be ready to go, so that's what I'm focusing on down here."
Hendrickson is continuing his transition to throwing from a lower arm angle, an experiment suggested to him by Showalter. He said he's made tremendous strides since first tinkering with his arm slot two years ago.
"It's so much easier to have a feel , even if someone mentions a change, 'Hey can you drop your arm a little lower,' I know how to do that," Hendrickson said. "It's kind of become second nature for me. That's the biggest change I've seen because last year and even this year. And that's what they saw in minicamp. … I went down and threw in the middle of June and they said it looked completely different than it was even last year. That's a good sign for me. The progression is there. I've seen some results. Now it's about continuing to get better."
Showalter said the team will take it slowly with O'Day's spring innings. "Just slow it down a little bit," Showalter said. "Darren's going to make the club." Since joining the Orioles in 2012, O'Day hasn't pitched more than 7 2/3 innings in Grapefruit League games. … Matusz will be stretched out this spring in order to allow him to work on his changeup, Showalter said. Matusz pitched just six innings last spring, but threw 24 in 2012 and 20 in 2013 as he competed for a rotation spot. … Infielder Paul Janish said he hopes to return from surgery to remove bone chips from his right elbow in enough time to compete for a spot on the club. "Hopefully it will kind of be a three-to-four week time frame and I'll be able to play the second half of camp ideally," said Janish, who had the procedure last Friday. "That's kind of optimistic, but we'll see … Hopefully I'll be able to play the last two, three weeks of camp and play well and hopefully have a shot."