Every Orioles fan knows the story regarding Ubaldo Jiménez. A 15-game winner for the Rockies in 2009, and a 19-win season the following year which sent him to his first All-Star game appearance of his career the very next season. A 13-game winner the year before arriving in Baltimore, Jiménez was expected to be the ace of the starting rotation.
Instead of staff ace, Jiménez has underperformed and has been removed from the starting rotation twice in three years. Jiménez has appeared in 86 games with the Orioles, starting 79 of them, and has pitched to a 4.72 ERA during his tenure in Baltimore. Not quite ace material.
While there have been few peeks of sun through the clouds for Jiménez, he will really have the chance to prove himself this season. Entering the final year of his four-year, $50M deal, Jiménez can show that he still has what it takes to be a middle-of-the-rotation starter.
Last season, Jiménez’ final seven starts were arguably his best stretch of starts with the Orioles. From August 25 to September 29, Jiménez pitched 47.2 innings, allowed 13 earned runs (2.45 ERA), and finished with a record of 3-2. He had limited opposing hitters to an average of .170 while striking out 38.
Jiménez was the Orioles’ hottest pitcher heading into the Wild Card game in Toronto.
I’ll just skip ahead now.
Pitching 16.2 innings this spring, Jiménez didn’t exactly have the best exhibition season. He allowed 11 earned runs (5.94 ERA), walked 11, and struck out 14. Still, Jiménez was penciled into the starting rotation and is now given the assignment of starting his season against the New York Yankees tonight.
The Yankees have typically hit Jiménez well. Through 11 starts, they hold a career .280 average, while Jiménez has pitched to a 6.05 ERA in 58 innings. A few of the current Yankees have found success against Jiménez as well. Chase Headley is 8-for-30 against him, Jacoby Ellsbury is 7-for-17, Matt Holliday is 4-for-12, and Chris Carter is 3-for-11.
Jiménez should be prepared to face a left-handed heavy lineup of Yankees. Last season, Jiménez allowed a .294 average to left-handed hitters, and manager Joe Girardi could take advantage of that. I would expect to see a Yankees lineup with left-handers Brett Gardner, Greg Bird, Ellsbury, Headley (switch-hitter), and Aaron Hicks (switch-hitter).
Tonight, the Orioles and Yankees will begin their season series at Camden Yards. The Yankees have plans of righting their opening week that saw them lose 2-of-3 to the Tampa Bay Rays. For the Orioles, Ubaldo Jiménez will look to follow in Dylan Bundy‘s footsteps from Wednesday evening, and keep the Yankees at bay.
All statistics included obtained from Baseball-Reference.