The chorus of fans calling for the Baltimore Orioles to release Ubaldo Jimenez grew louder during and after last night’s 14-7 loss to Minnesota. Jimenez’s line: 4.0 IP, 9 H, 6 R, 2 BB, 3 K. Jimenez seemingly pitched from behind in almost every count. The outs that he did record were a struggle.
However the most incriminating part was that he gave up a five-run lead. An RBI-double by Mancini and an RBI-single by Hardy in the second inning got things started. It appeared that the Orioles were heading in the right direction. Adam Jones then followed with a three-run homer later in the inning. That was his 125th career home run at Camden Yards, which makes him the ballpark’s new leader.
However Minnesota started to chip away at an Orioles lead they would eventually overtake. Mauer grounded into an out which scored a run in the third, and Kepler’s solo homer in the fourth cut the lead to 5-2. But it looked as if the Birds were going to keep tacking runs on as well, as Machado’s RBI-double in the last of the fourth ran the score to 6-2.
However Jimenez loaded the bases in the fifth with nobody out, and after Minnesota scored two runs in the inning he was removed. Minnesota would go on to put up four runs in that fifth inning, and when the smoke cleared the game was tied. The question is whether or not this was Jimenez’s last start. Time will tell.
In fairness to Jimenez, Minnesota didn’t let up once they got going. Many fans are going to say that Jimenez gave them confidence and so forth – maybe they’re right for all I know. But I think it would be different if the deluge of runs had ceased once Jimenez left the game. If anything, it got worse.
Minnesota put up six runs in the sixth, and then two more in the ninth on a two-run homer. The O’s did get one back in the last of the ninth on an RBI-single by Joseph. But the fact is that Minnesota hitters were just seeing the ball very well last night. Was Jimenez good? Not in the least. But again, had Minnesota been shut down immediately after he left the game, it would be different.
You can’t blame Jimenez for the six-run fifth, which in my view broke the Orioles’ back. You can’t blame him for the fact that one of those runs scored on a balk when Crichton fell off the mound as he was winding up. Yes, he needed to exit the game when he did – there’s no question. But let’s be fair about critiquing him; furthermore, the fact that Oriole bats went to sleep after he left isn’t something that attributable to him.
Am I saying that Jimenez isn’t struggling mightily? No, because he is. And that would need to change for him to stay in the rotation. I’m merely saying that it’s never one person’s sole fault that a team wins or loses. Put blame where blame is due – but not blame that doesn’t befit that person.
So…should the Orioles remove Jimenez from the rotation? The first question is with whom do they replace him? I suspect Asher might be the answer if that route is taken and Jimenez is sent to the bullpen. Another option is for them to defer the decision and simply skip Jimenez in his next turn in the rotation. The O’s have an off day Thursday, so that’s a possibility. In the mean time he could work long relief out of the bullpen and give the O’s an additional arm out there. My personal opinion is that this is the best option. (The fringe option would be that they could invent an injury and send him to the DL.)
The one option that the Orioles shouldn’t consider is DFAing him or outright releasing him. As I’ve said many times, the Birds are on the hook for his salary whether they like it or not. It would be an incredibly poor decision from a business standpoint for the to decide to cut him and be forced to continue paying his salary. Worse yet, someone else would have the option of picking him up – on the Orioles’ dime.