He's Back: Ubaldo Jimenez Looking to Add Finishing Touch Back Where it Began
SCOTTSDALE – At the age of 36, having spent the past two years at his home in the Dominican Republic, Ubaldo Jimenez is back where it all began for him – in spring training with the Rockies – hoping he can revive a career with the team that provided the foundation of his big-league success.
He made his first appearance of the spring last Wednesday, working two innings in a start, and will be back on the mound against the Mariners in Peoria Monday afternoon, coming out of the bullpen for a two-inning stint.
He’s excited to be back – in baseball and with the Rockies.
It wasn’t that Jimenez was planning to retire two years ago.
It was a matter of commitment to his wife.
With a big-league offer on the table from a team he declined to identify prior to the 2018 season, Jimenez backed off the opportunity to be with his wife.
“She was pregnant with a high-risk pregnancy,” he said. “I had to stay home that year. Last year, I only had minor league contracts, and opportunities in other countries. My mechanics were not good. I decided it wouldn’t work.”
Jimenez, however, worked with the help of Rolando Fernandez, the head of Latin American scouting for the Rockies, and the man who oversaw Jimenez originally signing with the Rockies. The fact he has been able to have an opportunity to revive his career with the team where it all started is actually a peaceful thought for Jimenez.
His first tour didn’t end well.
Jimenez threw the only no-hitter in franchise history, a rather unique event in that he walked six batters – all in the first five innings, including two in the third – and after the leadoff pass to Jason Heyward in the fifth, Jimenez pitched out of the stretch the rest of the game.
His 19 wins in 2010 remain the club record, and his 2.88 ERA was the best for a Rockies player in a full season until Kyle Freeland put together a 2.85 ERA two years ago.
But the end of his first term with the Rockies wasn’t pretty. He was dealt to the Cleveland Indians for a package of four players – right-handed pitchers Joe Gardner and Alex White, left-handed pitcher Drew Pomeranz, and first baseman/outfielder Matt McBride – on July 30, 2011.
That, in itself stung, because he had visions of spending his entire career in Colorado.
Adding insult to injury, he was scheduled to pitch that day in San Diego, and with no firm agreement in place, the Rockies had him warm up and then sent him to the mound for the first inning – in which he gave up four runs – before the deal was official and he headed to the clubhouse to shower, pack his bags and embark on the Cleveland segment of his career.
“I never thought I was going to be back here,” he said. “When I left we did not have the best relationship. Most of the people who were here are not here anymore. New people are in charge. So it wasn’t that hard to make the decision.
“For me I forget everything. That’s why I am here. I didn’t think about this and that. I move on. Baseball is a business. There’s a part of the business that things happen like that. You have to move on and get ready. And when I had opportunity to come back why not? I had great memories. I love Denver. I love the fans. They are the most loyal and amazing fans I know.”
The fact Fernandez is still in the organization also helped. There is a strong trust with the Latin players and Fernandez, and it is underscored by the way Jimenez returned to Colorado.
“I talked to Rolando and we agreed I was going to go to the Rockies (Dominican) complex because they were going to help me out to get my mechanics where they were,” he said. “I went there last August, and then I went to winter ball. At the time we didn’t agree to me signing with the Rockies. Rolando was just helping me try to continue my career.”
The more Fernandez watched Jimenez at the Rockies camp in the Dominican, the more Fernandez became convinced that not only did Jimenez need to take a shot at a comeback, but he needed to do it with the Rockies.
“Rolando saw me throwing, and he said `You still have it. I want you to get back where you were with your mechanics and let the arm work’. Originally, it wasn’t about the Rockies, but once he saw me and how I was making adjustment and pitched in winter ball he knew everything was fine. “
Jimenez has other opportunities, but like the Rockies, the Major League teams were offering minor-league deals. There also was interest from teams in Asia and Mexico.
“I told them all no,” he said. “The Rockies are the people that have given me the opportunity. They gave me a place to workout. And they gave me encouragement to pursue the opportunity.”
Whether it all comes together for Jimenez remains to be seen
What cannot be ignored, however, is after an ugly departure in 2011, Jimenez has returned to the Rockies, excited about the opportunity to not only pitch at Coors Field again, but to have his career end where it started.