DENVER (AP) — Colorado Rockies ace Ubaldo Jimenez has executed a nice U-turn to his season.
After spending the first half of the year searching for good health, consistency, command and velocity, he’s finally found all four in winning five of his last six decisions.
At last, he’s headed in the right direction.
But does that path lead right out of town?
Although Jimenez has rebounded from a slow start spawned by nagging thumb and hip injuries that hijacked the zip from his fastball and the spin from his slider, the Rockies haven’t followed suit, plummeting in the standings.
So, general manager Dan O’Dowd has said he’ll listen to offers for his 27-year-old ace — but would have to be overwhelmed to part with the star pitcher, especially in the prime of his career.
Failing to reach the lofty heights they expected as the trendy pick this spring to unseat the Giants not only as NL West bullies but also as World Series champions, the Rockies have dropped into a double-digit deficit behind San Francisco, turning them from prospective buyers into potential sellers with the trade deadline approaching.
And teams are inquiring about Jimenez, who has three years and $18 million left on his contract.
Jimenez wants to stay in purple pinstripes but said he realizes O’Dowd is going to do whatever he feels is best for the organization. So, the right-hander is steeling himself for a possible farewell to Denver in the coming days.
He doffed his cap to the Coors Field crowd giving him an enthusiastic standing ovation Tuesday night after he handcuffed the Atlanta Braves for 6 2-3 innings in his last start at home before the July 31 trade deadline.
“It’s been a long time since I got one of those,” Jimenez said. “And especially hearing so many things, I don’t know if that’s going to be my last one here. So, it felt really good.”
Jimenez, who signed with the Rockies as a 17-year-old, said the mound was his refuge from the incessant chatter surrounding him. He said his phone is constantly buzzing with texts from friends and Facebook messages wondering if it’s true he might be traded.
All the while, he’s returning to form, giving O’Dowd and the Rockies faithful a taste of what they’d be missing if he’s sent packing.
Jimenez (6-8) has a 2.57 ERA since June with 15 walks and 63 strikeouts.
Just a few months ago it was unthinkable that Jimenez’ name would come up in trade talk.
He set several team records in 2010, including wins (19), ERA (2.88), strikeouts (214) and opponents’ batting average (.209). He threw the franchise’s first no-hitter and started the All-Star game after becoming the first NL pitcher in nearly a century to win 13 of his first 14 starts.
But he ended up on the disabled list in April and didn’t win his first game until June following five losses and four no-decisions. By then, the Rockies were under .500, and they’ve nosedived over the last month.
Some of his teammates find it unfathomable that the Rockies would part with their best pitcher. Others realize this time of year, anybody’s name can come up.
“We hear it, but we don’t care,” outfielder Seth Smith. “There’s nothing we can do about it. We don’t know if it’s true or rumors. We’ll laugh and joke about it. But we’re just trying to win baseball games.”
Jimenez, too, holds out hope the Rockies can put it together and make a run this season, and he’s hoping he’s around in August to help out.
“This is the team that I’ve always been on. I love this team,” he said.
Would he tell that to O’Dowd?
“I think he already knows,” Jimenez said. “But like I said before, they are going to do anything that is good for the team.”
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)