As spring training moves into its final weeks Indians officials are hopeful they have made progress in putting the wheels back on Ubaldo Jimenez's career. However, they won't know for sure until the season begins and Jimenez begins to take a regular turn in the starting rotation.
This much is certain: the Indians need a big bounce back season from Jimenez in order to improve their chances to be contenders in 2013. Jimenez is the No.2 starter in the rotation behind No.1 starter Justin Masterson. The problem for the Indians is that since they acquired Jimenez in a trade with Colorado two years ago Jimenez has pitched more like a No.5 starter.
In 2012 Jimenez was 9-17 with 5.40 ERA. He led the American League in losses and wild pitches. One of new pitching coach Mickey Callaway's top priorities in the offseason has been to put Jimenez under the microscope and figure out a way to get him pitching like he did in 2009, when he was 19-8 with a 2.88 ERA for Colorado.
The working theory on Jimenez's mechanics is that he needs to speed up his motion. Callaway learned from a study of video tape from Jimenez's Colorado days that his delivery out of a windup was about one second quicker when he was pitching for Colorado than it has been since he came to Cleveland.
Jimenez has concentrated on speeding up his delivery in spring training, and there does seem to be some incremental improvement in his performance. In a start vs. the White Sox on March 13 Jimenez pitched five innings and allowed two runs on seven hits, but did not allow a walk.
Whether Jimenez can continue to be consistent with his mechanics into the regular season remains to be seen. But there is little question that the Indians, and Jimenez himself, have a lot riding on his quest to return to being the pitcher he was in Colorado.