BRADENTON, FLA. — Ubaldo Jimenez entered Sunday's game widely considered the Orioles' best starting pitcher so far this spring. And in what could have been his final Grapefruit League start, he didn't make it out of the first inning.
Jimenez allowed three runs on four hits and a walk and retired just two batters on 38 pitches before manager Buck Showalter pulled him, putting a sour ending on an encouraging spring.
The Orioles (9-14-4) rallied to tie the game in the eighth inning, then took the lead when spring darling Joey Rickard singled to lead off the ninth inning and scored on a double by minor league infielder Garabez Rosa. A second run in the ninth inning made gave them a fourth straight win, this one 5-3 over the Pittsburgh Pirates.
But it was nearly two hours of epilogue to Jimenez's return to Grapefruit League action.
"You're never going to be happy to be out of the game in the first inning," Jimenez said. "It doesn't matter if it's a Little League game or major league game. But it's part of the game. The good thing is, it's spring training, where I can go in the bullpen and keep throwing more pitches and have my pitch count up."
"If I leave him out there, he's got 40 pitches in one inning, and we're not going to do that when he can get the work done down there. There's nobody in the box there," Showalter said.
Jimenez got up and down three more times in the bullpen to simulate inning breaks and bring him to about 80 pitches, he said.
The results were disheartening and came at a time when optimism was high. Manager Buck Showalter said Jimenez had picked up where he left off in a strong September last season.
Before Sunday, Jimenez had made his past two starts in minor league games, but pitched well in major league games, too. After retiring one batter and being charged with six runs in the spring opener March 2, Jimenez turned in two good major league outings.
"He's been real good lately," Showalter said.
Jimenez struggled finding the strike zone early Sunday, issuing a walk to leadoff hitter John Jaso, then allowing a single to center fielder Andrew McCutchen before retiring the next two batters. A bloop into short left field by second baseman Josh Harrison turned into a two-run triple when no one covered third base. Jimenez allowed two more singles, one of which scored Harrison, and his day was done.
Shutdown bullpen: After minor leaguer Richard Rodriguez relieved Jimenez in the first inning, the Pirates couldn't muster any offense. Rodriguez, Brad Brach, Zach Phillips, Chaz Roe, T.J. McFarland, Jason Stoffel and Oliver Drake held the Pirates to three hits over the ensuing 8 1/3 shutout innings.
Reimold heats up: With uncertainty surrounding the status of Hyun Soo Kim and caution being advised on Rickard's hot spring, Nolan Reimold has picked a good time to start hitting. Reimold was batting .150 with six hits in 40 at-bats entering Friday's game, but has ripped off six straight hits over the course of three games. He hit his second home run in three games in the first inning.
Rosa rising: Rosa, who has been a frequent extra player this spring, started at second base and went 2-for-4 with the go-ahead single. He's 8-for-12 with six RBIs in the Grapefruit League.