CHICAGO: At least Ubaldo Jimenez leads the major leagues in something, although his employers aren’t likely to brag about it.
No pitcher in the major leagues has issued more walks than Jimenez, whose performance pointed the way to another embarrassing loss to the White Sox, 12-6 winners Sunday at U.S. Cellular Field.
Jimenez (5-4, 5.79 ERA) left the mound for good after Dayan Viciedo led off the fifth inning with a single. Manager Manny Acta pushed his starter as long as he could without using up his entire bullpen. In four innings, Jimenez was charged with seven runs, seven hits and four walks, running his season total to 42.
There is nothing that Jimenez does poorly to an outrageous degree except hand out walks. He is giving away free passes to first base at the rate of 6.75 per nine innings. If he continues at his current pace for an entire season of 200 innings, he will walk 150 batters. Of course, there is no guarantee that he will reach 200 innings.
To put Jimenez’s penchant for walking batters in perspective, Bob Feller set the American League record for walks in a season with 208 in 1938. But Feller threw 277‚ innings and struck out 240, finishing the season with a record of 17-11 and a 4.08 earned-run average. His ratio of walks per nine innings was 6.74. Oh, yes, he also was 19 years old and had never prepped in the minor leagues.
“It’s all about mechanics,’’ Jimenez said about his command problem. “That’s why I’ve been working on that.’’
Acta has talked about Jimenez’s faulty mechanics since spring training and corrective measures were instituted long ago, but obviously they have not been internalized by Jimenez.
“He was good his last outing,’’ the manager said. “But it’s about consistency. We can work [with him] all we want, but he has to go out to the mound by himself every fifth day. So we’ll see what happens five days from now.’’
In a hole
Jimenez put the Tribe in an immediate hole by giving up three runs in the first inning. The Sox scored again in the third on a walk, steal and bloop hit by Alexei Ramirez, then the roof caved in as Paul Konerko slammed a three-run homer in the fourth after a single by Gordon Beckham and a walk to Adam Dunn.
“I threw a lot of good pitches, and he fouled them off until he got one to hit,’’ Jimenez said of the at-bat to Konerko. “I tried to throw a slider and it got over the plate.’’
Jimenez has allowed eight home runs, an average of one every seven innings. That’s not good, but it’s not horrible. He also has permitted eight of nine runners to steal against him (don’t always blame the catcher).
Forty-one percent of Jimenez’s runs have been given up in the first two innings, which usually has put his offense in a hole, and he has failed to last at least six innings in four of his 10 starts.
But these are all lesser sins than his inability to command the strike zone.
“Ubaldo had trouble throwing strikes,’’ Acta said. “He couldn’t locate his pitches.”
When Jimenez was throwing his warm-up pitches before starting the second inning, Acta and head trainer Lonnie Soloff visited him on the mound.
“Ubaldo cramped up and we went to check on him,’’ Acta said.
Jimenez didn’t say the cramps totally disappeared but, “I was able to hang in there.’’
And nobody was blaming the cramps for his poor outing.
Even with a depleted lineup because of injuries to Asdrubal Cabrera, Carlos Santana and Travis Hafner, the Tribe’s offense scored enough runs to win most games. Johnny Damon got the biggest hit, a three-run homer, his first of the season, to even the score at 3-3 in the second inning.
Hit in face
The last thing the Indians needed was another injury, but in the fourth inning, Lou Marson was hit in the face with a pitch by Gavin Floyd and left the game one inning later. Marson took three stitches in the left side of his mouth.
“He has a big gash in his mouth,’’ Acta said. “But he’s a tough guy.’’
Marson feels he can play today.
“It was a curveball that didn’t break,’’ he said.
On the heels of sweeping the Tigers, the Indians failed to win any of the three games with the White Sox.
“We can’t sit here thinking because we beat the Angels and Texas that we’re better,’’ Acta said. “That’s just the way baseball is. It’s way too early. So what if we swept the Tigers? These guys swept us. We would be celebrating [first place] if it was September, but it’s May.’’
Sheldon Ocker can be reached at email@example.com. Read the Indians blog at www.ohio.com/indians. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/SheldonOckerABJ and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/sports.abj.