There's no doubt that right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez was pitching out of place in the Orioles bullpen, and his presence there clogged an already-splintered relief corps. So, Jimenez is now receiving yet another opportunity to show he can contribute to a struggling starting rotation.
Orioles manager Buck Showalter placed Jimenez back in the rotation this weekend and he will make his first start since May 22 in the team's interleague series finale against the St. Louis Cardinals on Sunday afternoon.
"I'm excited," Jimenez said Saturday. "That's what I've been doing my whole career, so it's good to get back. But I just want to get the job done. Like I told Buck when they told me I was going to be a reliever, I told him I was going to do whatever possible to do the best job i can wherever I am."
When Showalter explained the move Friday, he said it had as much to do with returning right-hander Alec Asher to the bullpen – where he had been pitching well in a variety of roles – as it did giving Jimenez an opportunity. It also shows that there's no clear alternative for a starting spot, especially since the existing rotation is struggling.
Asher – who had a 1.62 ERA in relief before moving to rotation full-time -- didn't do well in his first appearance back in the bullpen. Relieving left-hander Wade Miley in the sixth inning of the Orioles' 15-7 win, Asher let all three hitters he faced reach base, including a three-run homer to Dexter Fowler to start his outing.
Now, it's up to Jimenez to do his part to help right a rotation that has a major league-worst 8.26 ERA in June.
"Yeah, I think this is a new opportunity for me to show and be there for the team," Jimenez said. "I just can't wait to get out there and hopefully help the team."
Jimenez had a 5.27 ERA during this stint in relief, so he had his problems pitching out of the 'pen. After being a starter for most of his career, he needed to warm up quicker in the bullpen, and that was evident in some first-inning struggles. His best relief outing was on May 28 in Houston, when he came in for Asher in the third inning, allowed two runs in his first frame and then tossed five scoreless innings.
Whenever Jimenez pitched in relief, he couldn't be used for several days, forcing Showalter to patch his bullpen together being one reliever short.
"It is difficult," Jimenez said. "I've been a starter for 15 years, since I signed with pro ball, so yeah it's been difficult. Takes a lot. I wish I could throw every day, but I'm not used to that. You see the relievers that throw back-to-back days; they even get ready in spring training for that."
Even though Jimenez's ERA since moving to the bullpen isn't sparkling, he has only issued one walk over 13 2/3 innings during that time, so he's showing more control. And opposing hitters are batting just .241 off him since May 28.
"Yeah, I feel really good," Jimenez said. "I think I've been throwing the ball good. I've been throwing a lot of strikes. I've been able to have all my breaking balls whenever I needed. So, I feel good."