The book on Orioles starting pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez throughout his major league career has been the tendency to be his own worst enemy.
With an array of pitches and ability that suggest he should be a perennial Cy Young Award candidate, Jimenez has instead struggled to find consistency due to command issues that once again plagued him in Monday’s 4-2 loss to the New York Yankees.
The right-hander surrendered eight hits — several of the bloop variety — and four earned runs over 4 2/3 innings at Yankee Stadium, but the five walks issued transformed a potentially-respectable outing into one in which he failed to make it out of the fifth inning and suffered his second loss of the season.
In addition to free passes elevating his pitch count, Jimenez began the bottom of the third with a walk to No. 9 hitter Yangervis Solarte, who scored the first run of the game on a double play. The Baltimore pitcher then walked Kelly Johnson with two outs an inning later to put a runner in scoring position before Solarte drove in the second New York run of the game.
Appropriately enough, Jimenez walked former Orioles second baseman Brian Roberts to conclude his rough 109-pitch outing before lefty Zach Britton entered to walk Johnson to force a run home in the fifth inning.
Jimenez entered Monday’s game averaging 4.0 walks per nine innings in his career — which equals former Baltimore pitcher Jake Arrieta’s frustrating career mark — and has never been able to work deep into games consistently because of high pitch counts and free passes. His 3.30 earned run average a year ago was his best since his 2010 All-Star season with Colorado, but Jimenez only managed to complete 182 2/3 innings in his 32 starts and hasn’t reached the 200-inning plateau since 2010 despite having made at least 31 starts in each of the last three seasons.
No one doubts Jimenez’s upside — it’s why the Orioles gave him a four-year, $50 million contract in February — but his propensity for issuing walks and throwing too many pitches won’t bode well competing against the American League East and its patient lineups if pitching coach Dave Wallace can’t help the 30-year-old keep his unorthodox mechanics in check.
Over the course of the season, you’re going to get the good Jimenez and the bad Jimenez, but the Orioles have seen too much of the latter through his two starts of the 2014 season.
Hardy still on mend
Shortstop J.J. Hardy missed his third game in four days on Monday as he continues to nurse lower back spasms that started on Friday in Detroit.
He told reporters prior to the series opener against the Yankees that his back was improving, but it remains unclear whether he will be available to play on Tuesday afternoon. It’s understandable that the Orioles wouldn’t want to be hasty in placing the veteran on the 15-day disabled list, but his back spams have left manager Buck Showalter shorthanded on the bench.
With two runners on and one out in the seventh, New York manager Joe Girardi summoned lefty Matt Thornton to face the left-handed Ryan Flaherty, a situation that typically calls for a pinch hitter. The problem was that Showalter was without another infielder as Delmon Young, Steve Pearce, and Steve Clevenger were his only available bench options.
Young and Pearce provide viable options against left-handed pitching, but their lack of versatility and speed isn’t ideal off the bench. Should Hardy be sidelined any longer, the Orioles may need to take a long look at adding another infielder to the 25-man roster as they’ve already leaned heavily on Flaherty, Steve Lombardozzi, and rookie Jonathan Schoop in the infield.
And it’s part of the reason why the Baltimore lineup has managed just 22 runs in its first seven games of the season.
Reimold shifted to 60-day DL
With the acquisition of right-handed pitcher Preston Guilmet from the Cleveland Indians on Monday, the Orioles transferred outfielder Nolan Reimold to the 60-day disabled list, which is just the latest disappointment in the 30-year-old’s career.
At this point, any health-related setback isn’t surprising for the right-handed hitter as he wasn’t progressing enough with his surgically-repaired neck to warrant a roster spot to begin the season. Monday’s development makes him ineligible to return until late May, and Showalter said Reimold continues to receive treatment on his neck in Sarasota.
There’s no question that Reimold has been through hell physically with two spinal fusion surgeries over the last two years, which is what made the Orioles’ decision to sign him to a one-year, $1.025 million deal over the winter so surprising. Inking him to a minor-league deal with an invitation to spring training would have been reasonable, but guaranteeing his contract seemed excessive at the time and certainly does now as he still isn’t 100 percent.
The good news for the Orioles is that they weren’t depending on Reimold to be a real contributor in the lineup as they were in each of he last two years as they acquired left fielder David Lough from Kansas City and signed designated hitter Nelson Cruz over the winter. Anything they get from Reimold is icing on the cake, but his shift to the 60-day DL certainly won’t create any optimism of him being able to contribute.