Jimenez not showing right makeup for Indians

April 2, 2012

Sometimes the smallest incident reveals much.

So it was Sunday in a wind-it-down spring training game between the Cleveland Indians and Colorado Rockies. There, Indians starter Ubaldo Jimenez did something that was hard to figure, and left many wondering what exactly he was trying to prove.

In the first inning, Jimenez hit Colorado's Troy Tulowitzki. When Tulowitzki yelled at him, Jimenez dropped his glove and scampered toward home plate, gesturing to Tulowitzki to come after him.

Juries have convicted folks on far less evidence of intent.

Rockies manager Jim Tracy told reporters covering the two teams that the beaning was “the most gutless act I’ve seen in 35 years of professional baseball.”

OK, maybe that's a bit much.

But still this clearly does not sound good for the guy who's supposed to be a stalwart of the Indians staff, the guy the Indians gave up their two top starting pitching prospects to acquire. And it does not sound good in attitude or approach.

There are some truths in baseball — other than there is no crying.

One truth states if a guy shows another player up, he might get hit.

Another is that if two guys have a history, one might get hit.

But the key fact about those truths is they take place during the season.

Because a fundamental truth is there is no reason to hit anyone in spring training games, where guys are merely preparing and trying to stay healthy for the season.

Never say never, of course, but the code strictly states that it has to take an extremely egregious act for a guy to throw at another player in spring training.

Criticizing a former teammate for whining about a contract extension does not seem to pass muster.

Jimenez hit Tulowitzki with the first pitch he threw to him, on the elbow. He may have been throwing at his back, but the elbow is a spot that can end a season.

It happened after Tulowitzki had criticized Jimenez when, earlier this spring, Jimenez said that he asked to be traded when the Rockies signed Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez to contract extensions for $80 million and $134 million, according to FOXSports.com’s Tracy Ringolsby.

Jimenez’s complaint: He earned less and was under contract through 2014.

Yes, his signature is on that contract.

So Jimenez didn’t pitch well in Denver (6-9, 4.46 and no wins until June 1), and then he was traded to Cleveland, where he also did not pitch well (4-4, 5.10).

This spring, Jimenez said being in Cleveland was like being in heaven compared to Denver. His teammates, who thought Jimenez dogged it when others were paid and he wasn’t, did not appreciate the remarks.

"I would have addressed my teammates directly (last year) and handled it from there because we were all wondering what was going on,” Tulowitzki told the Denver Post. “We asked him. It never came up that it was his contract. If you can't get something out of someone when you ask them, then what are you going to do?"

"I asked him repeatedly if he was hurt. Just tell us," Jason Giambi told The Post. "He said it was nothing. So then you start to think a guy is just shutting it down."

If this doesn’t raise red flags of concern, not much will.

If the Rockies are to be believed, Jimenez was selfish and petulant over a contract. Instead of handling things professionally, he gave up on his team.

At least that’s what they’d have people believe.

Jimenez responded to chatter by hitting a guy on the elbow.

That Jimenez is still worried about the Rockies indicates his mind is not fully in Cleveland. If it were, he really wouldn’t care what others say. Nor would he act like a child by hitting a former teammate in a spot that can result in a serious injury.

That beaning really is not the Indians' way. They want their guys to compete, but not play cheap. It would never seem typical of them to shrug at a guy hitting a former teammate because he criticized him in the media due to a contract discussion.

Worse, Jimenez is 1-4 with a 7.43 ERA in spring training.

He’s pitched 23 innings and given up 24 runs, 19 earned, with 15 walks.

And he had been scheduled to start the second game of the season — until he was suspended five games by Major League Baseball (pending appeal).

Jimenez told the media in Arizona that he couldn’t control his pitches, and pointed out he had five walks, an odd way to make everything better.

It sure doesn’t seem like Jimenez is exhibiting the makeup of a guy who can be the dependable starter the Indians need if they hope to compete with Detroit in the American League Central.

Maturity and professionalism usually win.

In this case, Jimenez didn’t show either.