The Orioles' Ubaldo Jimenez dilemma isn't really a dilemma

  • Orioles starting pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez walks off the mound during a pitching change in the fifth inning against the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field.
Orioles starting pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez walks off the mound… (David Richard / USA Today…)
August 17, 2014|By Dan Connolly | The Baltimore Sun

CLEVELAND -- Orioles manager Buck Showalter was asked directly after Saturday night’s 6-0 loss to the Cleveland Indians whether right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez was going to make his next scheduled start.

The answer didn’t answer the question -- but it was particularly telling.

“If something like that was going to change, he’d hear it from me first, obviously,” Showalter said.

Jimenez, who allowed six runs to the Indians in 4 1/3 innings Saturday, was asked about potentially losing his rotation spot now that he is 4-9 with a 4.83 ERA. He simply said: “It’s not up to me to think about that. Only thing I can do is go get ready for my bullpen [side session], get ready. It’s not up to me.”

It’s not up to me, either. But with Miguel Gonzalez eligible to return to the rotation for Wednesday’s open start, it seems like there is no alternative but to put Jimenez in the bullpen.

Frankly, that’s a tough blow. Jimenez was dominant in the second half last year for the Indians, and the Orioles were hoping that he could rekindle that. And judging him by two second-half starts after not pitching for a month is somewhat unfair.

But this is a pennant race. It’s not about being fair. It’s about giving your team the best possible chance to win. More times than not this year, Jimenez hasn’t done that. The Orioles are 7-13 when he starts -- although some of that has been because of occasionally-weak run support.

The problem is this club’s not better with Jimenez in the bullpen either. He hasn’t pitched in relief since his major league debut in 2006. And his inability to throw strikes really causes a problem in tight games when you need a reliever to keep things close.

For those who say trade him, you can’t. With what’s left of his four-year, $50 million contract, he has no trade value. And no way the club eats that salary; the Orioles will have to hope he can figure things out next year.

So, basically, Jimenez likely will be relegated to being a $50 million mop-up reliever in the next few weeks. That’s not a good outcome for anyone. But, unfortunately, in a pennant race, that may be the only option.

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