When the Baltimore Orioles signed Ubaldo Jimenez to a four-year contract worth $50 million last season, it was met with both excitement and skepticism. Baltimore had never given out such a huge contract to a free agent pitcher before, but they seemed almost desperate to improve their roster over the 2013 roster, which fell just short of the club’s second straight postseason appearance. After one month of the 2014 season has passed, the Orioles are getting the same Jimenez that all his other ball clubs got. Whether you view that as a good thing or a bad thing is up to you. Let me explain.
Jimenez is historically a very slow starter; as the weather heats up, so does he. Over his career in April, Jimenez has been pretty awful, and a 10-10 record with an ERA of 5.02 proves that. Last season with the Cleveland Indians, Jimenez began the year with an 11.25 ERA through three starts, including a pair of starts where he was shelled by the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees, two of the same teams he has faced this season. He ended the month last season 1-2 with an ERA of 7.13.
At the end of April this season, Jimenez hasn’t been very good either, as he’s 0-4 with a 6.59 ERA. However, he is starting to turn things around. Against Boston on Apr. 20, he pitched very well until giving up a three-run home run in the sixth inning, allowing a total of only four hits through 5.1 innings of work. Then, after a shaky first inning against the Kansas City Royals in his last start, he buckled down, pitching six innings and allowing four runs (two of which came in the first inning). Buck Showalter isn’t worried about Jimenez yet either.
“If you look at his, kind of, history, he gets better as the year goes on,” Showalter told MASNsports.com. “He’s actually pitched competitively for us. He’s real close to keeping us there. He had some challenges last year and came on real strong. You trust the person and the character. He’s in good standing where that’s concerned. He’ll keep fighting. He’ll work his way through it.”
The track record that Showalter is referring to are his excellent numbers after April. Over the course of his career, Jimenez is 72-67 with a 3.86 ERA in months that don’t bring May flowers. Last season, Jimenez was even better after April came to a close; he pitched to a 12-7 record with an excellent 2.72 ERA throughout the rest of the season. Jimenez knows this, but he’s not making any excuses or just expecting things to change; he knows he has to rebound after his slow start.
“There’s no doubt about it,” Jimenez told The Baltimore Sun. “I don’t panic. I want to be there for the team and it’s been a tough two games but I’ve been able to shake it off. I’ve never given up. I work hard every day and I’m getting ready for my next start. That’s one thing I’ve put in my mind — that I know if I keep working hard — things are going to change.”
Jimenez is right, things are going to change. History has a tendency to repeat itself, so by this time next month, we should all have a very different opinion of Jimenez, and whether or not he was the worth the huge contract he received.