CLEVELAND: Even armed with the four-year, $50-million contract the Baltimore Orioles used to land him as a free agent, Ubaldo Jimenez showed Saturday night against his former team that he’s still the same up-and-down hurler prone to surrendering big innings.
Carlos Carrasco, meanwhile, dazzled in his second start since returning to the rotation as the Indians blanked the Orioles 6-0 at Progressive Field.
Jimenez looked as if he’d morphed back into the pitcher he was during his first few years in Cleveland before pitching coach Mickey Callaway helped reignite his career.
In a mere 4⅓ innings, Jimenez gave up six runs on five hits and three walks, with a bulk of the damage coming on Carlos Santana’s three-run home run in the first inning and Michael Brantley’s two-run homer in the fifth.
While Jimenez struggled, Carrasco showed he could very well be the latest Indians pitcher to have his fortunes reversed under Callaway’s tutelage.
Like Jimenez, Carrasco has always possessed great stuff. But getting the right-hander to throw it consistently and with confidence has been Callaway’s challenge. Saturday’s showing, however, is evidence that Callaway’s latest reclamation project may be on the verge of paying big dividends.
After a disastrous start to the season in which he went 0-3 with a 6.95 ERA in first four starts before being banished to the bullpen in late April, Carrasco was a model of consistency in the bullpen. In 26 relief appearances, he went 3-1 with a save and a 2.30 ERA with 39 strikes against nine walks.
Of course, that was the same pattern Carrasco followed last season — struggle in the starting rotation, light it up out of the bullpen. But when Josh Tomlin struggled to lock down a spot in the rotation, Carrasco got another chance to start, and he has been as good as he’s ever been.
Saturday, Carrasco limited the Orioles to three harmless hits over seven scoreless innings, striking out five. He pitched exclusively from the stretch, just as he did as a reliever.
The hardest-hit ball off Carrasco came in the second inning, when Caleb Joseph led off with a double off the base of the left field wall. But Carrasco shook it off and promptly retired the next three batters in order.
It wasn’t even half as easy for the underachieving Jimenez, who struggled from the start. He walked the first two Tribe batters, crossed up his catcher on a pitch that resulted in a passed ball and then served up Santana’s three-run homer before extracting himself from further damage.
After the rough first inning, the right-hander settled in for three innings before running into trouble again in the fifth. Jose Ramirez singled to left field to score Chris Dickerson to make it 4-0, and Brantley’s big blow into the left field bleachers later in the inning chased Jimenez from game.
Stephanie Storm can be reached at email@example.com. Read the Indians blog at www.ohio.com/indians. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/SStormABJ and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/abj.sports.