Colorado Rockies: Evaluating the return of Ubaldo Jimenez

The Colorado Rockies announced Wednesday that former ace Ubaldo Jimenez will attend spring training as a non-roster invitee on a minor league contract.

The 36-year-old has not pitched in the majors since 2017 with the Baltimore Orioles. Jimenez is best known for his Cy Young Award-contending season in 2010 in which he threw the only no-hitter in Colorado Rockies franchise history on April 7 of that year. Jimenez finished that season 19-8 with a 2.88 ERA.

While not as flashy as his 2010 season, Jimenez had several other strong seasons in a Rockies uniform. From his call-up in 2006 through the end of the 2010 campaign, Jimenez went 50-36 with an impressive 3.52 ERA and 133 ERA+.

After leaving Colorado, Jimenez had mixed results. But while there were certainly some rough seasons, he also posted some solid numbers in 2013 (3.30 ERA with the Cleveland Indians) and in 2015 (4.11 ERA with Baltimore). While a 4.11 ERA won’t win you any awards, the Rockies are in desperate need of rotation help on the back end and there’s no question the team would jump at the opportunity to roll out a consistent fourth or fifth starter with an ERA in the mid-4.00s.

Can Jimenez be that starter? There are a lot of reasons to say no, such as his age, his inconsistency, and the fact that he led the American League in earned runs in his last season in the majors despite throwing just 142.1 innings.

But let’s look at the positives. Jimenez is back in a familiar setting, he certainly has an opportunity to earn a roster spot if he can prove himself worthy, and he doesn’t have the kind of pressure to be the ace that undoubtedly affected him with Cleveland and Baltimore and, to some degree, during his initial stint with Colorado.

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If Jimenez can recapture some of his old form, we already know he figured out how to pitch at Coors Field once before, so hopefully he shouldn’t be intimidated by the altitude. He is certainly not a guarantee to make the roster out of spring training and, unfortunately, he might be the biggest move the Rockies have made this offseason. So let’s see what we get and maybe, if we’re lucky, it might actually pay off.

And maybe, just maybe, the Rockies will strike gold with these other two interesting spring NRIs as well.

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