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Controlling running game on Ubaldo's to-do list

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- The last thing the Indians want to do is throw too much at Ubaldo Jimenez at once this spring. Right now, the starter's focus has been on developing an improved rhythm and faster tempo with his delivery.

If Jimenez continues to make progress with that aspect of his pitching motion, the right-hander should also see improvement in another area: controlling the running game. Last season, baserunners ran wild when Jimenez was on the mound.

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"Let's go one step at a time," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "I think one thing will lead to another. I think last year he was trying to reach back and get some velocity, and he ended up being a lot slower to the plate. This spring, he's already quicker just because he's trying to get some tempo."

The Indians found that Jimenez was nearly a full second slower to home plate last season than he was a few years ago with the Rockies.

As Jimenez's mechanics slowed, runners took advantage. Last season, Jimenez allowed an American League-high 32 stolen bases. That figured marked the second-most surrendered in the Major Leagues, trailing only A.J. Burnett (38) of the Pirates.

When pitching out of the stretch last year, Jimenez would often try to reach back to throw harder, according to Francona. That approach helped runners get better jumps on the right-hander.

"He had a little bit of rocking out of the stretch," Francona said, "where it looked like he was trying to generate some velocity. I don't think he needs to do that. I think if he stays with what he has, and stays in rhythm and just attacks the strike zone, especially down, his stuff is plenty good. I could care less what the [radar] gun says."

Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, and follow him on Twitter @MLBastian. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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