SARASOTA, Fla. – Orioles right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez rebounded Monday afternoon from his rocky spring training debut, tossing three scoreless innings against the Minnesota Twins at Ed Smith Stadium.
Jimenez retired just one of the seven batters he faced in his first Grapefruit League outing, allowing six runs on three hits and three walks over 1/3 of an inning against the Atlanta Braves in the Orioles' spring home opener on Wednesday.
But much like he did last spring, Jimenez recovered quickly in his second spring outing. He allowed just one hit and one walk while recording three strikeouts over his three innings of work despite throwing only his curveball and changeup as secondary pitches to his fastball.
"I had a better command of the fastball and the breaking ball," Jimenez said. "We kept doing what we were doing last time, which was throwing the curve and the changeup and it was good. I was able to command it."
Jimenez allowed a leadoff double to Twins centerfielder Byron Buxton to open the game, but stranded Buxton on third base.
After Buxton moved to third on a groundout, Jimenez struck out Miguel Sano on three pitches, getting him to swing through a 93-mph fastball. He then got out of the inning when a sharp comebacker off the bat of Kenny Vargas deflected off his glove to third baseman Manny Machado, who threw to first to get Vargas and end the inning.
"It feels way better than when you start giving up so many runs, but the first thing I'm looking for is the things that I'm working on, but when you are able to get out of a situation like that, you feel good," Jimenez said. "You know that even though you're working on things, you have a better result when you have a good command of the fastball."
Jimenez overcame a one-out walk in the second, striking out Ryan Sweeney on a changeup to end that inning, then needed just 10 pitches to retire the Twins in order in the third.
"I was able to get ahead and I stayed ahead. I threw three or four curves and they were good. All of them were for a strike."
Jimenez said it was important to see positive results on Monday.
"Every time you go out there you are working on something, but at the same time you want to see a result," he said. "Because that's going to make you more comfortable, more confident when the season comes. You know you are going to be able to go out there and compete and be there for your team."
After struggling in his first spring start of last season -- he retired just four of the 11 hitters he faced, allowing six runs (five earned) over 1 1/3 innings in a 15-2 loss to the Detroit Tigers in Lakeland – Jimenez went 3-2 with a 2.88 ERA in his six remaining Grapefruit League starts, riding that momentum into the season. Jimenez was the team's best pitcher over the first half of the season, going 7-4 with a 2.81 ERA in 17 starts before the All-Star break.
Jimenez said Monday that he's starting to get into the same comfort zone as last spring.
"Yeah it felt like every time to the mound I was able to command the fastball and get ahead and stay ahead," Jimenez said. "I think that's what I did today."
It has been a rough spring for the Orioles starting rotation as a whole. Jimenez and right-hander Miguel Gonzalez were both battered in their spring debuts, and two other rotation members -- right-handers Chris Tillman (hip flexor) and Yovani Gallardo (late signing) -- will make their first starts this week.
"It's not only about one guy," he said. "You could have one guy win 20 games and have a good season, but if the other ones don't do what they're supposed to, you're in trouble. So that's the challenge we have, and that's what we are looking forward to do. To be there as a team."