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Peter Schmuck: Ubaldo Jimenez should accept a minor-league assignment

The Baltimore Sun
Would you send Ubaldo Jimenez to the minors and hope he finds a way to be productive again?

Let's not get bogged down in the gory details. Orioles starter Ubaldo Jimenez has been a mess and there's no way to sugarcoat that.

The question, of course, is what manager Buck Showalter and the organization should do about it.

Of course, the message boards are abuzz with calls for the club to release him and eat the rest of his large contract, which still would require the Orioles to pay him about $22.7 million. That's a lot of money to pay someone to go home, but it's not really the money that's the issue.

If the Orioles had two or three additional starting pitchers on the depth chart who could  produce a string of decent starts, cutting bait at this point would make sense, but they don't. The depth of their starting rotation was expected to be a problem this year and it is.

That's why they've got to find another way out of the Jimenez situation that preserves the possibility -- however slight -- of him coming back to the rotation to help at some point. He's still listed as the starter for Thursday's game against the Red Sox, but something has to happen between now and then.

Showalter has to pull him out of the rotation and replace him with Vance Worley. That's pretty much his only immediate option. Showalter will get more flexibility when Yovani Gallardo gets back from his shoulder injury, but there's no guarantee that Gallardo is going to step right back in and be steady and productive.

So, what do you do with Jimenez? First, you try to convince him that it's in his best interests to accept a minor league assignment to keep working on his famously faulty mechanics. He's a good guy who has said all along that he wants to do what ever it takes to figure things out and help the team.

Going to the minor leagues might bruise his pride, but no more so than pitching the way he has at the major league level this season.

There's also the possibility of a rehab assignment if he's got a tired arm, but that's going to be a tough sell because he and the team have given no indication that there's a physical issue.

There is a lot at stake here. The Orioles starters -- including two fifth-starter candidates who both have had to join the major league rotation -- have performed fairly well over the first two months of the season. Jimenez and the injured Gallardo have been the glaring exceptions.

If it were just about the money Jimenez is going to make, this sunk cost has already sunk. If it is about having enough rotation depth to get through the season and reach the playoffs, there has to be some other way,

The Orioles do not appear to be in a position to acquire another solid starter at this early point in the season, so they've got to remain insulated against an injury or other eventuality that leaves them with so few rotation innings that they grind down one of baseball's best bullpens.

It's a tough call, but the way Jimenez could really make a contribution right now would be to swallow his pride and accept a minor-league assignment. 

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