Sheldon Ocker

GLENDALE, Ariz.: It took awhile, but Ubaldo Jimenez delivered a quality pitching performance Tuesday against the Chicago White Sox.

In five innings, he allowed three runs (two earned) on seven hits and no walks, striking out three, though the Indians lost 7-1 at Camelback Ranch.

“I liked what I saw,” manager Manny Acta said. “His secondary pitches were better, the best I’ve seen all spring from him.”

In his previous five outings, Jimenez had problems with his velocity, his command or both. Consequently, he had given up 11 earned runs in 13‚ innings.

“I feel great,” Jimenez said. “I was able to throw a lot of strikes. I was able to get ahead and stay ahead. I think this is the first time in spring training that I’ve been able to do that.”

What made the difference?

“I think I concentrated on mechanics and making sure I had better control of the strike zone,” Jimenez said.

No radar guns were within easy reach, so neither Jimenez nor Acta were sure how hard he was throwing.

“I don’t know, but it felt better,” Jimenez said.

Added Acta, “I haven’t seen any readings, but his velocity looked better than his last two outings.”

Two starts ago, Jimenez was throwing his fastball between 89-91 mph. In his last outing, he averaged 91.6 mph in the first inning, 92.4 mph in the second but dropped to 89.3 in the third.

Jimenez will have one more start before the regular season begins. He is scheduled to pitch the second game against the Toronto Blue Jays on April 7.

Left-field candor

All spring, Tribe operatives have described the competition to play left an even race, even though it’s been obvious for at least two weeks that Shelley Duncan was their man.

General Manager Chris Antonetti said as much Tuesday.

“I think Shelley has really stepped up,” Antonetti said. “He’s worked hard on defense, and among the guys in that group, he’s probably taken a step forward.”

Guerrero confirmation

Antonetti confirmed that Vladimir Guerrero worked out for the Indians in the Dominican Republic on Monday, but the GM gave no indication that the Tribe was interested in signing him to fill the opening in left field.

“Vladimir did work out for us yesterday,” Antonetti said. “He continues to have interest in playing. He asked for us to work him out, and we did.”

How did Guererro look?

“I wouldn’t want you to read too much into this, but we did work him out,” Antonetti said. “He hasn’t played the outfield recently.”

Guerrero, a fearsome hitter in his prime, is 37 and hasn’t played the outfield since 2010, when he played there 18 times.

Asked if Roberto Hernandez threw batting practice to Guerrero during the workout, Antonetti said, “Good ol’ Rob did not throw to him.”

Nothing stunning

Rick VandenHurk made his second appearance out of the bullpen and gave up two runs on a homer and walk in one inning. In two outings, he has given up four runs, two hits and a walk in 1‚ innings.

The Tribe claimed VandenHurk off the waiver wire from the Blue Jays last week.

Marching onward

The Indians travel to Mesa this afternoon to play the Chicago Cubs. Josh Tomlin will start with Nick Hagadone, Frank Herrmann, Rafael Perez and Dan Wheeler ready to go in the bullpen.

Sheldon Ocker can be reached at socker@thebeaconjournal.com. Read the Indians blog at https://ohio.com/blogs/tribe-matters. Follow him on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/SheldonOckerABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.