Indians offer perspective of facing Ubaldo

Indians offer perspective of facing Ubaldo

BALTIMORE -- As is typically the case, one television screen in the Indians' clubhouse was dedicated to film of the opponent's starting pitcher.

There was the brilliance of Ubaldo Jimenez -- a devastating splitter and a fastball that he can still get up into the mid-90s -- but there were also balls falling into the outfield and booming beyond the outfield fences.

On Saturday, though, most of the hitters were preoccupied with the screens tuned to MLB Network. Most had been Jimenez's teammate for a year enough. They knew enough.

"You get to play defense behind him all year, so you kind of get a feel of how he pitches and what he does to guys," Indians third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall said. "Obviously, you make tweaks year to year, but I think definitely it does help."

Jimenez made his first start against his former team since joining the Orioles during the offseason. He helped pitch Cleveland to the postseason last year for the first time since 2007 with his team-best 3.30 ERA, finishing an up-and-down stint with the Tribe.

The start to Jimenez's O's career has been equally as rocky. He entered Saturday just 2-5 with a 4.50 ERA, but he's gone at least seven shutout innings in two of his past four starts.

"When he throws strikes, he's tough," said Jason Giambi, who also played with Jimenez in Colorado. "He's got four good put-away pitches, but he gets in trouble when he doesn't throw strikes, and then you can get some walks and you get that one big hit."

Giambi was Jimenez's teammate on the Rockies in 2010 when the starter put together a Cy Young Award-caliber first half and got a chance to start the All-Star Game.

The designated hitter recalls opposing hitters raving about how untouchable Jimenez was. "I'm glad he walked me," they would say, "because I couldn't get a hit."

Giambi said Jimenez's 17-2 start to that season was as dominant a stretch as he's seen any of his countless teammates put together. But even then control was an issue. The righty's 16 wild pitches were the most in the National League that season, and Jimenez somehow was never able to crack the 20-win mark.

"That was the most amazing thing I've ever seen," Giambi said.

One of the Tribe's few new additions on offense was also the only player who spent more than a passing glance on the game film of Jimenez.

Shortstop Justin Sellers joined the Indians before this season after spending his first three Major League seasons with the Dodgers. He's never had the chance to go against Jimenez or to play as his teammate.

"You ever face him?" he asked Michael Brantley, whose locker is just below the TV.

"Spring Training in '09," the outfielder responded. "0-for-3. Three punchouts."

David Wilson is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.