With change in mechanics, Ubaldo Jimenez finds success late in season

NOTEBOOK

Right-hander said he made a slight tweak that has helped in his last few appearances

September 28, 2014|By Eduardo A. Encina | The Baltimore Sun

TORONTO — Even though Ubaldo Jimenez's first season in an Orioles uniform has been a rough one, the right-hander believes he has made strides in his last few outings.

Jimenez said a slight tweak in his delivery has made his unconventional mechanics a little smoother.

Instead of moving his hands completely over and behind his head while in the windup, he's raising them just in front of his head, which he said allows him to drive to the plate better and see his target more clearly. Jimenez said he used to pitch that way in the minor leagues, but he changed his delivery in Triple-A.

"I think the whole time in the minors I was over here, but at the time I was throwing really hard, so it's kind of difficult for me to stay back on the mound, so that's why I started doing that, so I could stay back on the mound," Jimenez said about his motion. "I didn't know how to stay back on the mound, but now I'm more mature. I think with the old thing, I was going back way too far. …

"I would lose the sight of home plate. This way I can minimize the movement of my body and just see the target way better."

In Sunday's 1-0 win over the Toronto Blue Jays at Rogers Centre in the Orioles' regular-season finale, Jimenez pitched a scoreless sixth inning. After Jose Bautista reached on a fielding error by third baseman Ryan Flaherty, Jimenez struck out the side to strand Bautista on second base.

Going into that relief appearance, Jimenez had also won his last two starts — the first time he has won back-to-back starts since early May.

His walk totals are still high — he issued seven in those two starts — but he feels more comfortable on the mound. Jimenez allowed four earned runs in 11 innings over his last three outings, including Sunday's relief appearance.

Jimenez said the first person to mention the mechanics tweak to him was vice president of baseball operations Brady Anderson in May after looking at video of Jimenez's delivery . Pitching coach Dave Wallace also mentioned it a couple months later.

"At the time, I just wanted to do my job," Jimenez said. "I wasn't worried about my mechanics, It wasn't a big deal. A couple months later, the pitching coach told me pretty much the same thing. That I was going way too far over my head. … At the time, I was worried about getting people out. So when I went to the bullpen, I wasn't pitching, so I told myself, why not try this? I didn't even tell the pitching coaches. I just did it, and they noticed it.

"It feels pretty good. It feels like it gives me a better tempo on the mound. The mechanics are good, and I can repeat it… It was tough because I was pitching over my head for a long time, since Triple-A, that was 2006. So that's been a lot of years doing the same thing all over. Sometimes I was trying to do the new one, and I had to remind myself because that's how I used to be."

Rotation in ALDS vs. Tigers not set yet yet

Orioles manager Buck Showalter still hasn't officially announced any of his starters for the ALDS beyond right-hander Chris Tillman in Game 1. And while the way the starters slot out is evident, Showalter said he would still switch them up based on the matchup.

"Some of it is contingent on who we're playing," Showalter said before Sunday's game. "I know our bullpen is. You look at a lot of things that could change the dynamic of it. There will be a lot of conversations. I think we will know a something after today. And I think there will be a lot of conversations coming out of that meeting. I'm going to start contacting people."

Even though left-hander Wei-Yin Chen slots out to pitch Game 2, Showalter said that hasn't been decided.

"Of course not, that's why we did it that way," Showalter said. "We've got four guys in play for all four spots. We could really go five. The reason we did it like that was to keep our maneuverability depending on who we're playing."

If the Orioles rotation stays in line, Chen would start Game 2 on Friday at Camden Yards. Right-hander Miguel Gonzalez, who started the regular-season finale in Toronto, would pitch in Game 3 on Sunday. Right-hander Bud Norris, who threw a nullpen session before Saturday's game and is set to throw another one Tuesday, would be in line to start a Game 4 next Monday.

Showalter said Saturday that he's leaning toward carrying just 10 pitchers for the ALDS, having the Game 3 and Game 4 starters available in the bullpen for Games 1 and 2.

Around the horn

The Orioles, who finished with 211 home runs this year, have hit at least 210 in each of the last three seasons. The New York Yankees and the Chicago White Sox are the only teams to hit at least 210 in one of the past three seasons. They both did it in 2012. … The Orioles finished their season series with Toronto with an 11-8 record, tying the most wins they've had in a season against the Blue Jays (1979, 1980, 2004, 2012). They have won 10 of their last 15 against the Toronto. … The Orioles finished the regular season 32-23 in one-run games and 24-30 in day games.

eencina@baltsun.com

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