SARASOTA, Fla. – Special attention has been paid to Ubaldo Jimenez in spring training in his time with the Orioles. He signed in the early days of camp in 2014, and after a rough first year, had a closely examined March in 2015.
Attention must be paid again.
Jimenez didn’t make it out of the first, retiring just one of the seven batters he faced. He allowed three hits and walked three, and all six scored in the Orioles’ 11-4 loss to the Atlanta Braves before 5,984 at Ed Smith Stadium on Wednesday.
The day began with the Orioles being introduced to their spring fans, and as South Korean outfielder Hyun Soo Kim trotted out, manager Buck Showalter bowed to him. Kim laughed.
Kim was again hitless in six at-bats, and Showalter said he would play him again on Thursday in Port Charlotte against Tampa Bay.
Shortly after the bow, Jimenez bowed out quickly, throwing just 34 pitches.
“He got his pitches in, we were hoping for two he just happened to get his pitch count in in one inning. Actually, a third of an inning,” Showalter said.
Showalter doesn’t want to get concerned about spring. He’ll throw this one out.
“I might throw out the second one too, depending on the field and the conditions. I don't pay a lot of attention to it right now,” Showalter said.
“What I’m most interested in is his first start in Baltimore. Cuz that’s when it starts. I trust him. He’s been around. He’s pitched a lot of innings. He’s been a healthy horse for a long time and we expect him to be again, take the ball very fifth day. There’s something to be said about that. My most interest is when the bell rings.”
Atlanta manager Fredi Gonzalez joked that he was taking “the baby Braves” to Sarasota.
Over the winter, Atlanta sent Shelby Miller to Arizona, and in return, the Braves received pitcher Aaron Blair, who started and shortstop Dansby Swanson. They also got outfielder Ender Inciarte.
Swanson, last year’s top pick in the draft and Ozzie Albies, a 19-year-old prospect from Curacao, both came along. They played the entire game and switched between short and second.
The Baby Braves scored seven runs in the first with young outfielder Mallex Smith tripling twice in the inning. He ended up with four hits, and was a single short of the cycle.
Smith homered off Brian Matusz and Albies hit one against Andy Oliver.
Atlanta had an 8-0 lead after 1 ½. Odrisamer Despaigne, who tried to bail Jimenez out in the first, allowed two runs and walked three. The Orioles walked 10 batters.
Jimenez, who had an equally forgettable first outing in the initial game of spring training a year ago, wants to forget about it.
“It doesn’t look pretty at all, but I think I feel good because my arm feels really good. I was able to work on the things I wanted to. Even before the game. I wanted to throw my changeup and my curve, and I started to throw my split and slider for today and that’s what I did,” Jimenez said.
On Mar. 3, 2015 in the Orioles’ 15-2 loss in Lakeland to the Detroit Tigers, Jimenez lasted 1 1/3 innings, and gave up six runs on just two hits.
“I even feel better than last year, the first one that I had last year. Mechanically I’m feeling good and I went to the mound and I wasn’t thinking about mechanics. I was thinking about throwing inside with the fastball and working on the curve and changeup that I didn’t use a lot last year,” Jimenez said.
The Orioles scored four runs against Blair in the second. Jonathan Schoop hit a two-run home run to left and Chris Davis smacked a long home run to center.
That ball didn’t stop rolling until it landed at second base of a practice field the Orioles use far beyond the stadium.
Blair was impressed.
“If I execute my pitch, that doesn’t happen,” Blair said. “To a guy with that kind of power, that ends up a long, long way away.”
NOTES: Zach Britton made his spring debut, pitching a scoreless fourth. … Efren Navarro, who refused an outright assignment to Norfolk, has signed a minor league contract with Seattle. … Miguel Gonzalez pitches for the Orioles on Thursday against Tampa Bay’s Erasmo Ramirez in Port Charlotte.