GOODYEAR, Ariz.: Is a new day dawning for Ubaldo Jimenez?
Last year, he was at or near the bottom of every pitching category among American League starters. This spring he has been on an upward curve virtually every time out.
Sunday, he gave up three runs, four hits and one walk in seven innings, as the Indians lost to the Chicago Cubs 4-3 at Goodyear Ballpark.
“The progression continues for him,’’ manager Terry Francona said. “He could have kept pitching but I wanted to get Cody [Allen] in the game. So Ubaldo finished up in the bullpen. He continues to build. He’s been working on his delivery, and the results are showing up.’’
One feature of Jimenez’s start was a sinker that produced nine ground-ball outs.
“Even if they square the ball up, it’s hard to keep the ball off the ground when he’s right,’’ Francona said. “He doesn’t have to pitch to the sides of the plate. If he’s down with his pitches, he’s going to have success.’’
The Tribe offense went quietly for most of the afternoon. Mike Aviles was the exception, delivering two singles and two RBI. Yan Gomes, who suffered a slight hamstring injury late last week, singled home the Indians’ final run in the ninth.
The Indians have released Daisuke Matsuzaka from the contract he signed Feb. 18.
Last week the Tribe told Matsuzaka he would not win a berth in the rotation, but he agreed to go to the minors upon receiving a $100,000 retention bonus that bound him to the team until June 1. Otherwise he could have left March 26 and become a free agent.
It is believed the Indians and Dice-K are working on a new deal that would keep him with the Tribe longer. If he had made the 25-man roster, Matsuzaka would have earned $1.5 million for the season.
It’s a go
Unless an unhappy surprise awaits, Chris Perez will start the season on time as the closer.
Perez has been idled by a shoulder strain but has been working his way back, pitching an inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Class A team at the minor-league complex on Saturday.
“He had a long inning,’’ Francona said. “There were a lot of foul balls, and he threw 30 pitches. He felt good, but we’re going to give him an extra day. So he’ll come back on Tuesday then pitch on Thursday, Saturday and do a light bullpen on Monday.’’
Until now, Francona has been noncommittal about the probability of Perez being ready for the season opener.
“Right now, I’m leaning toward that if there are no setbacks,’’ the manager said.
Perez will have only four chances to pitch before the start of the schedule, but he made only three last year, when he suffered an oblique strain during training camp.
Burning the midnight oil
Francona said he expected to meet with General Manager Chris Antonetti and the coaching staff Sunday night to begin finalizing the roster.
“We’ll stay after the game and go through a lot of stuff,’’ the manager said. “I told the players we would do what we can to make decisions as quick as we can.’’
Asdrubal Cabrera was removed from the lineup with spasms in his midback.
“He was swinging in the cages and tweaked his back,’’ Francona said. “It’s a silly time of year to play through it. I’d say he’ll miss two games.’’
Matt Carson probably will remain out of action today after suffering a cut on his forehead and neck strain when he slid head-first into an outfield fence last week.
The Indians travel to Scottsdale to play the Colorado Rockies tonight. Brett Myers will start against Jeff Francis. The game will be aired by MLB Network at 10 p.m.
Sheldon Ocker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.