GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Indians fans have been waiting months to see Ubaldo Jimenez return to pitching like the ace he was two seasons ago. The box score from his spring debut will hardly help make the wait any easier to handle.
On Sunday afternoon, Jimenez surrendered five runs in the first inning of Cleveland's 8-6 loss to the Reds at Goodyear Ballpark. After an inconsistent showing with the Tribe last season, the pitcher knows his latest effort might look rough on the surface.
"It's up to you guys to say they hit the ball soft," Jimenez said with a laugh. "It probably doesn't look good in the paper, but I felt good. Whoever knows about baseball knows that things like this are going to happen. They kept hitting bloopers."
The Tribe's defense did not do Jimenez any favors, either. Two errors -- a fielding gaffe by first baseman Russ Canzler and a throwing miscue on the part of right fielder Aaron Cunningham -- helped open the floodgates for the Reds' five-run outburst. When the smoke cleared, Jimenez was only charged with one earned run.
Cincinnati's Zack Cozart reached on an infield single, Miguel Cairo sent a floater into no-man's land down the right-field line, Wilson Valdez reached on a chopper in front of home plate and Henry Rodriguez hit a soft liner to right. The lone line drive of the bunch was a two-run single off the bat of Willie Harris.
Indians manager Manny Acta had no qualms with Jimenez's 37-pitch effort, which included 25 strikes. The lanky right-hander limited his repertoire to fastballs, sliders and splitters -- the curve and changeup will be added into the mix as his outings lengthen out -- and showed decent command, sound mechanics and health.
"I felt that Ubaldo threw the ball well," Acta said. "He had good stuff. They didn't hit the ball hard. One guy hit the ball hard. You can't control the choppers and the bloopers and stuff. I felt that he threw the ball well. Unfortunately, we didn't play good defense."
There will still surely be fans who see the five runs and five hits allowed, along with one walk, and worry that it will be more of the same from Jimenez this season. Last year, after being acquired from the Rockies in a blockbuster deal at the July 31 Trade Deadline, Jimenez went 4-4 with a 5.10 ERA in 11 outings down the stretch.
All Jimenez could offer was that he feels better than he has in years.
"I felt really good out there," said Jimenez, who blames a handful of nagging injuries for his mound woes last season. "My arm felt good -- strong. I'm ready to go. Everything is feeling 100 percent right now. It's been a long time since I've felt like that."