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Tribe Happenings: What can the Indians do with Jimenez?

Tribe Happenings: What can the Indians do with Jimenez?
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Some news, notes, and thoughts from my Indians notebook…

What to do with Jimenez

Another start, another maddeningly, frustrating performance by right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez. Dr. Jeckyll, meet Mr. Hyde.

After a very encouraging start last Sunday against the vaunted Rangers where Jimenez went 7.0 shutout innings and allowed just two hits, walked five batters, and struck out six, he was back to his customary inconsistent self on Friday against the Red Sox. He was all over the place and could not locate anything, and the result was seven runs allowed in 4.1 innings on nine hits and five walks while striking out four.

Jimenez, 28, is now 3-3 with a 5.18 ERA in 7 starts this season, and has a horrific 30 walks in 40.0 innings with only 24 strikeouts. Whenever a pitcher is walking more batters than he strikes out, and on top of that is walking 6.8 batters every nine innings, that’s not good and is not giving his team a chance to win every time out.

Right the Indians are limited by what they can do with Jimenez. He has over three years of service time and does not have any options remaining, so they can’t just send him to the minors to get himself fixed. Yes, they sent right-hander Fausto Carmona to the minors in 2009, but he had an option remaining and had under three years of Major League service time, so the situation was different.

The way things stand the Indians have four options to choose from with Jimenez.

One, they could simply designate Jimenez for assignment. By doing this they could effectively be letting him go as he could be picked up off waivers by another team, though if he went unclaimed he would have to accept an assignment to the minors since he has under five years of service time so can't veto a first time outright assignment. While this may be an option, there is no way the Indians are going this route considering the price they paid to acquire him and the talent he possesses but is unable to tap into.

Second, they could just keep Jimenez in the rotation and continue to work with him in his side sessions, go over video with him, and use every resource available to hopefully get things to click with him. He is a mental and mechanical mess right now, so I am not sure just sending him out there every fifth day is the right solution as he needs time to step away and really break down his mechanics and build himself back up. It is hard to do that when you are being relied upon to pitch every fifth day.

Third, they could always move Jimenez to the bullpen where he can get limited action in long relief. This would allow them to remove him from the rotation and really work on him behind the scenes and then work him in during mop up duty of games where the starter only goes three to four innings. The problem with this is it would limit the Indians to essentially using a 24-man roster since while working on things his use would have to be limited.

Which brings us to option number four: putting him on the disabled list. Now, this is a tricky thing as unlike the minors where players can be put on the disabled list for phantom injuries for as long as a team wants, this really can’t be done in the big leagues. For one, the league polices it, and also players don’t want to go on the disabled list when they are not hurt as it could hurt their future earnings.

So, to put Jimenez on the disabled list, the Indians are going to have to get creative and find something wrong with him that they can put him on the 15-day disabled list for an injury that would both be realistic and also not be a red flag for teams that consider signing (or trading for) him in the future. Heck, maybe there really is something wrong physically, and if so, then he and the team should take advantage of it to shut him down for a few weeks.

At the moment I do not sense any urgency by the Indians to get Jimenez out of the rotation, but they surely have to be nearing a boiling point. When you are contending you simply can’t stand for the outings he has put forth this season. If right-hander Jeanmar Gomez were pitching like Jimenez has to date, Gomez would have been optioned out to the minors three to four starts ago.

The options on the farm to replace Jimenez are limited, but could they really be any worse at this point? The top three options to replace him in the rotation – if it gets to that point – would be right-handers Kevin Slowey and Zach McAllister or left-hander David Huff. Considering the solid start McAllister had in a spot start against the White Sox on Monday (6 IP, 2 ER, 6 H, 0 BB, 5 K), he would probably be the first option.

It is time to shut Jimenez down for his and the team’s own well-being. He needs a chance to take a step back and collect himself, and the team needs a chance to take a step forward with a pitcher every fifth day that consistently gives them a chance to win.

Sizemore nears return

Indians outfielder Grady Sizemore is nearing a return to the team. On Tuesday he worked out at Progressive Field and did some running and agility drills on the field, and then threw some long toss. It is the next step in his gradual progression in the recovery from a procedure to repair a herniated disk in his back on March 1st.

Sizemore, 29, has also been hitting balls off a tee and is expected to progress to soft toss and live batting practice this week when the team returns home on Wednesday. With each step in his rehab process he moves a little closer to a return to the lineup, though there is still a long way to go.

Right now the target for Sizemore’s return is mid-June. Since he is on the 60-day disabled list, the earliest he can be activated is June 3rd, but it would appear to be too optimistic that he would be ready by that date. Once he is cleared to play he will need to go on a minor league rehab assignment and the Indians will probably give him close to the full 20 days allowed to make sure he is 100% and ready to go not only physically, but with his bat as well.

Assuming all continues to go well with Sizemore’s rehab and he does not have any hiccups he would help bolster a lineup in desperate need of a punch. If he is able to return it will be interesting to see what the Indians do with the recently signed Johnny Damon, though at the moment Damon is making that decision easy with his poor play.

But if Damon’s play picks up between now and mid-June and Sizemore is healthy and ready to return, I could very well see a situation where both are on the team. Sizemore can no longer play every day and will need his workload monitored, and Damon is not an everyday player going forward either.

I could see Sizemore sharing center field duties with Michael Brantley and also seeing some time in left field, Damon playing left field and some time at designated hitter, and Brantley playing all three outfield positions as a super fourth outfielder (which means Aaron Cunningham would be gonzo).  With such a rotation, Brantley could play five to six days a week, Sizemore four to six days a week, and Damon four to five days a week.

Wild first base ideas

Indians first baseman Casey Kotchman has played a little better of late, but his numbers are still nowhere close to respectable for an everyday player. He is a very sound defender and has saved the Indians many runs with his defense at first base, but he has just as easily cost the Indians several runs with the poor production in his bat.

Unfortunately, the Indians are probably not going to be able to “fix” the problem at first base with a trade until closer to the July 31st deadline. Hopefully by then Kotchman is playing better, or an internal option fills in and does a good job.

At the moment the Indians internal options are Matt LaPorta and Russ Canzler who are both playing at Triple-A Columbus. Shelley Duncan would appear to be an option as well, but he has already proved he is not an everyday player and he is a below average defender at first base, so the Indians are not inclined to use him there unless in an emergency.

LaPorta got off to a hot start in Columbus but he has cooled considerably this month and he has not been able to hit anywhere outside of Huntington Park. He is still not ready to return to Cleveland. Canzler is a human windmill in Columbus where he is striking out basically once every three times he steps up to the plate, and he is proving to be the journeyman four-A player a lot of people thought he was prior to his big season last year for Triple-A Durham.

So what other options do the Indians have internally at first base?

What about third baseman Jack Hannahan? Once Lonnie Chisenhall is ready to come up, the Indians may explore playing Hannahan at first base in order to keep his bat in the lineup and also to get Chisenhall’s promising bat in the lineup as well. The Indians would lose some defense with Chisenhall at third base, but would gain much more offensive firepower with him in the lineup rather than Kotchman. Plus, Hannahan should be able to handle first base almost as well as Kotchman, a position he does have some limited experience at in the past with 69 career games there between minors and big leagues.

Another off the wall idea would be to put Sizemore at first base. Now, this would not be an option for this season as he would need a full offseason and spring training to adapt to the position since he has never played it, but it may be a position the Indians or a team that signs him next season considers playing him at. It would keep him healthier by removing him from all the rigors and pounding his legs and body take patrolling the outfield and also take his poor arm out of the equation.

If Sizemore can still hit, then why not try it?  Like I said, it is a wild and crazy idea.

Blake is the gift that keeps on giving

Former Indians third baseman Casey Blake recently retired. He leaves after a 13-year career where he played in 1265 games and hit .264 with 167 homers, 616 RBI, and .778 OPS in his career. Not too bad for a minor league castoff that played in three different organizations before signing with the Indians prior to the 2003 signing on a minor league deal.

Given a chance to play every day with the Indians in 2003, Blake became a core piece to the team from 2004-2008 when they competed for the AL Central crown on a yearly basis and in two seasons were serious World Series contenders. In six years with the Indians he hit .266 with 116 homers, 417 RBI and .787 OPS in 810 games, production that was often maligned because of a poor 2005 season where he was awful hitting with runners in scoring position (.171 AVG, .491 OPS).

For what the Indians paid Blake and how he performed over his entire career, he was a solid piece to those teams from 2003-2008 and was a very under-rated Indian. Even for those that may disagree on his true value to the team during that period, one thing is certain, and that is every time Carlos Santana steps onto the field all Indians fans are happy that Blake was once an Indian.

The reason being is back in July of 2008 the Indians traded Blake to the Dodgers for Santana, who was a little known catcher in High-A at the time. Since then Santana became one of the best prospects in baseball, and is now an integral piece to the Indians future and arguably the face of the franchise the next several years.

So thanks for the memories Blake, congrats on carving out a solid career, and oh yeah, thanks for Santana too.

Roster shakeup

Prior to the game on Saturday the Indians scratched right-hander Josh Tomlin from his scheduled start. An MRI on Saturday revealed that he has inflammation of the soft tissue in his wrist, so he was placed on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to May 8th. He will be eligible to come off on May 23rd, so he will miss two more starts.

With Tomlin sidelined, the Indians called up right-hander Zach McAllister to make the start last night and he pitched a solid game going 7.0 innings and allowed 4 runs on 8 hits, but did not walk anyone and had 8 strikeouts. He is expected to stay up with the team and assume Tomlin's spot in the rotation which he is out.

The Indians also made a change to their bench as infielder Jason Donald was optioned to Triple-A Columbus and infielder Jose Lopez was called up from Columbus. Lopez had been designated for assignment back on May 1st when Johnny Damon was added to the roster and then he was outrighted to Columbus, so he was not on the 40-man roster.

With the purchase of his contract the Indians had to remove a player off the 40-man roster to make room for the addition of Lopez, so the Indians designed Double-A Akron outfielder Nick Weglarz for assignment. The Indians have ten days to trade, release or outright him to the minors. If he goes unclaimed on waivers, he will have no choice but to accept an outright assignment to the minors by the Indians and would still be their property for the rest of the season.

Tainted record

The Red Sox got exposed a little this week when a recent local newspaper study found that they were manipulating their ongoing sellout streak which is over 700 consecutive games now.  Teams are able to declare a game a sellout even if all tickets are not sold if they distribute unsold tickets for free to charity and others, which sometimes can be in excess of 1000 or more tickets a game.

This is nothing new as all teams do this. The Indians did it at the tail end of their streak of 455 sellouts where games in April and May in 1999 and 2000 were not technically sold out but they were able to manipulate the streak by giving away tickets. Otherwise the streak would have probably ended in the low 300s.

Parting shots

The Rockies have optioned former top Indians prospect left-hander Drew Pomeranz to Triple-A. In five starts he was 0-2 with a 4.70 ERA, and they sent him down in order to work on some delivery issues. … Right-handed reliever Vinnie Pestano has now struck out at least one batter in each of his 16 appearances this season. That is the longest streak to start a season for an Indians reliever since 1918, and bested the mark held by Doug Jones in 1987 (15 games). … Right-hander Derek Lowe is tied for first in the American League in wins (5), 7th in ERA (2.47), 2nd in quality starts (6), and 1st in groundball to fly ball ratio (1.78). Not a bad offseason pickup; so far at least.

Follow Tony and the Indians Baseball Insider on Twitter @TonyIBI. Also, his new book the 2014 Cleveland Indians Baseball Insider which profiles the Indians' Top 100 Prospects and more is available for sale.

User Comments

May 14, 2012 - 10:58 PM EDT
Tony, it is hard to believe that it is a real possibility the Indians will buy out Jiminez next year for $1 mil rather than pick up their $5.75 mil option for 2013. The big talk when Jiminez was acquired was whether Jiminez would let his 2014 player option become part of the guaranteed contract. Thank God the Indians still have the out in 2013.

Could you imagine Jiminez and Carmona pitching the games in a doubleheader? That would be a long day.
May 14, 2012 - 12:10 AM EDT
Mike, sorry, but while the Rangers start was good, it also had all the warning signs of disaster with the high amount of walks. Also, sometimes a pitcher just gets a team on a given day. Bottom line, he has been extremely inconsistent since being acquired.....he's had 3-4 really good outings, but mixed it up with 7-8 really poor ones and the other outings have just been meh. Also, he has the 12th worst ERA in the AL, 2nd worst WHIP, 3rd highest wild pitches, worst K/BB, 11th worst K/9, 4th highest pitches per IP, 2nd worst on-base%, and the most walks allowed. How is that showing anything encouraging so far? And that's WITH the Rangers start. Thank God he had that start or he'd be the worst in every category. He's flat out been one of the 2-4 worst pitchers in the league so far this season. I hope he turns it around, but what has he done to suggest he will? I'll keep praying to the baseball gods and hope he does, but at this point I've just come at accept he is a bust and if he does rebound then it is gravy.

As for Masterson, he needs to get his act in gear too. He had a very good 2011 season, but so far he's been all downhill since his electric opening day start. The Indians have a pitching problem on their hands as their #1 and #2 starters are a mess.

When you think about it, it is amazing this team is even above .500 with their top two starters failing and three black holes in the lineup and one that is very susceptible to LH pitching.
May 13, 2012 - 9:25 PM EDT
Regarding 1b, is Laporta hurt or something? Hasn't played the last few days for the Clippers.
May 13, 2012 - 4:24 PM EDT
my question is why does this keep happening to the indians? i mean i understand that not every deal is going to give a huge dividend of returns to both teams, but i have to say it sure seems that as of late the indians seem to be seriously getting burned in trades. now i know there is a huge history of successful trades, like choo, asdrubal, and maybe u can argue the masterson trade (however i dunno after today), but it sure seems that over the past 6 seasons the indians have been burned so bad on most of their trades. im not trying to sit here and say its shapiro's fault or antonetti's fault, but wow there has to be some accountability for these deals where the indians are not only giving up blue chip prospects and established players, but for also getting absolutely nothing in return...
May 13, 2012 - 3:09 PM EDT
Ubado lived off a great half season in 2010, he's stunk since the 2010 All Star break.

One of the many failings of the Dolan ownership is their inability to hire people who can evaluate talent. For years, the team drafted poorly-look at the lack of home-grown talent on the team. (The draft may be getting better, but the jury is still out on that.) As the CC and Lee trades show, they can't other team's talent, either. Now they completely missed on what was supposed to be a blockbuster trade for an ace. Why would Colorado want to trade a young ace with a very team-friendly contract? Because he's not an ace, but a whiny mechanical and mental mess that the Rockies happily unloaded.

In an attempt to excuse this disaster or a trade, some Dolan apologists have said well, looks like Pomerantz and White aren't going to be much, either. Which re-enforces my point that the team can't evaluate talent..

Yes, I understand that Larry and Paul Dolan don't personally evaluate talent. But, as Paul Brown said to the bus driver who got the team lost "I blame the person who hired you".
May 13, 2012 - 1:52 PM EDT
Next week's Tribe Happenings: what to do about Justin Masterson?
May 13, 2012 - 1:04 PM EDT
Iron Mike, baseball's also full of tales of pitchers who, for whatever reason, lose it, and never regain it, and are soon out of baseball. I don't want it to be the case, but it certainly looks to be the path that Ubaldo's on. The Rangers' start was not actually that much better or inconsistent with his other starts, he walked 5, including walking the bases loaded at one point. The Rangers, unlike the Red Sox, didn't get the hits to fall (Ubaldo did actually have command of his breaking balls against Texas, the fastball looked equally bad in both starts)

Agree that they don't have a choice, from a PR standpoint alone, they can't just give up on Jimenez or throw him in the bullpen. But moreover they need him to at least be an effective starter for the next 1.5 years. If that doesn't happen, they have zero shot, even in this weak division. Unless he's actually injured, I don't see a situation where they move him out of the rotation, even if he continues pitching poorly. If it's mechanical, they need to work with him, maybe skip him in the rotation when Tomlin comes back so he has a chance to work on the side in a non-game situation.
matt underwood
May 13, 2012 - 1:00 PM EDT
I remember Jack McDowell in the third start of the '96 season went 9 innings and shut out the Red Sox - 9 ks. Tribe wins 8-0.
Rest of the way, he was garbage. Ended with a 5.11 era.

"He pitched in 30 games with a 5.11 ERA in 1996, and was discovered to have an injury in 1997. It has been said that McDowell tried to pitch through the pain of the injury, causing further damage."

This is the same with UJ - might see flashes, but he is toast.

Kudos to the Front Office for making a horrible trade.
May 13, 2012 - 12:37 PM EDT
Iron Mike:
I'l take that bet every day and twice on Sundays. Jimenez is a dud that the Rockies gladly unloaded on our naive GM. He's been crappy for a year and a half. While you are dreaming about him being productive, dream that the Browns win a Super Bowl.
Iron Mike
May 13, 2012 - 12:12 PM EDT
Ben, agree providing playing time for Lopez at 1B might not be a bad idea. When Marson catches the bottom of our line up has a huge hole, though I do understand his defense is what is keeping him in MLB. Vince Carter, you are way off in your assesement of Jimenez. 6-8 starts this season is a long way from the center of the earth's core. The Indians have no choice but to work with Jimenez and get him consistent. When they do, he'll be productive.
May 13, 2012 - 10:17 AM EDT
Give Lopez a shot a first base. He bats right handed and he can hit.
May 13, 2012 - 10:13 AM EDT
Jimenez could only dream about having a line like McAllister's to open the season. 13 innings, 0 walks and 13 Ks. He has a 2.86 FIP now for his 6 career starts. I doubt he continues to pitch anywhere near as well, but I would bet good money he has better results than league leading (by a mile) walk artist Jimenez going forward.

Lost in the Jimenez worries is that Masterson's been nearly as bad. The reality is this is not a good team without Masterson and Ubaldo pitching like front of the rotation starters, much less pitching like guys on their way to a demotion. I have more confidence in Masterson turning it around because it's only been a month, while Jimenez has been on a 1.5 year steep decline.
May 13, 2012 - 9:26 AM EDT
Besides his undependability and high ERA, Jiminez taxes the bullpen by not going deep in starts. If he had a line like McCallister last night, 7 ip & 4 ER, on a consistent basis, he would be much more palatable. Instead he is more like 5 or 6 IP & 4 ER.

I pray the Indians give Sizemore the full time available in minors, not only to prove his health, but to regain his form. His spotty playing time since 2009 has got to hurt his timing.
May 13, 2012 - 9:02 AM EDT
By the time Ublow figures it out, if he ever figures it out, he will surpass Satchel Page as the oldest Indians pitcher in team history. Let's cut our losses instead of riding this elevator all the way into the center of the earth's core.
Iron Mike
May 13, 2012 - 8:47 AM EDT

Agree on trying Sizemore or Hanahan at 1B, good ideas. Dismissing Jimenez at the moment after he is two starts from shutting out Texas, the best hitting team in baseball, is absurd. Baseball is full of stories and situations like this. Posted last week the tales of Luis Tiant. There is one way to get through things like this, provided he is healthy, work at it.

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