Cleveland Baseball Weekly: Bye, bye Ubaldo

Cleveland Indians shortstop Astrubal Cabrera looks to avoid a sliding New York Yankees Robinson Cano on a double play in the first inning at Progressive Field on Tuesday, April 9, 2013, in Cleveland, Ohio. (Phil Masturzo/Akron Beacon Journal/MCT)

Cleveland Indians shortstop Astrubal Cabrera looks to avoid a sliding New York Yankees Robinson Cano on a double play in the first inning at Progressive Field on Tuesday, April 9, 2013, in Cleveland, Ohio. (Phil Masturzo/Akron Beacon Journal/MCT)

Jim Piascik

Through all the poor performances over the past two years, I have stayed on the Ubaldo Jimenez bandwagon.

Even after Jimenez struggled to a 5.10 ERA in 11 starts following his trade to Cleveland in 2011, I really believed that he would round into form and lead the rotation in 2012.

Despite leading the American League in wild pitches and losses last year, I still remained hopeful that 2013 would be the year Jimenez finally found his way.

But after Tuesday night, I am officially off the Ubaldo bandwagon.

Now, my personal journey from denial to acceptance is not interesting per se, but as one of the last defenders of Jimenez, I can say that there is no rational reason to hold on to hope for him anymore.

Tuesday was everything you need to know about the Ubaldo era in Cleveland. Jimenez allowed seven runs in 1 2/3 innings, walking in two of those runs and five of the 12 batters he faced. After that abysmal start, Jimenez’s ERA ballooned up to 11.25 on the season.

Since being traded to Cleveland, Jimenez has a 5.60 ERA and 4.7 BB/9 in 45 starts. Those numbers are not fit for any starting pitcher, let alone one who is supposed to be the ace of the staff.

The good news is that Cleveland can let Jimenez become a free agent at the end of the season, and he should be gone for good. Cleveland is stuck with him for the rest of the year, but the clock is ticking.

With a lack of starting pitching depth, Terry Francona may try to wring a few more starts out of Jimenez, but if he still cannot find the strike zone, the team can send him to the bullpen, or try to send him to the minors or just send him away.

The Ubaldo bandwagon went off the road a long time ago and now has no one left on it. Pretty soon, we can all walk away and just try to forget.

Meanwhile, Justin Masterson

On the bright side, as of Wednesday, Justin Masterson has been the anti-Jimenez. Through his first three starts, Masterson has been downright dominant, allowing one earned run in 22.0 innings. In a starting rotation that has been shredded by injuries, inconsistency and Carlos Carrasco beanballs, Masterson has been the rock holding things together.

Of course, Masterson will taper off at some point; no pitcher can maintain a 0.41 ERA and Masterson will not be the first. But if he can find a way to keep pitching like a top-of-the-rotation starter, Cleveland can rely on having some reliable starting pitching.

The questions surrounding every member of the rotation not named Masterson are threatening to overwhelm Cleveland’s playoff chances before they even begin. It may not be much, but one great starting pitcher is better than none, and so far, Masterson has been that guy.

It’s Getting Better?

So far in 2013, Cleveland’s offense has been pretty average with some early season issues, but occasional elite performances.

Of course, with the rotation pitching as it has, the offense needs to be firing on all cylinders to give the team any chance at winning. To date, that just has not been able to happen.

Cleveland made it through Spring Training relatively unscathed by injuries, just to see them pop up again and again through the first few weeks of the season. Both catchers on the roster, Carlos Santana and Lou Marson, have missed decent chunks of time; center fielder Michael Bourn is headed to the disabled list after getting his hand spiked and second baseman Jason Kipnis may be following Bourn to the DL with a sore elbow.

All of these injuries have thrown a monkey wrench in the lineup, with backups being forced into roles they just are not good enough to handle. That, plus slow starts from shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera, third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall and outfielder Drew Stubbs are holding Cleveland’s offense back in the early going.

It is still way too soon to declare anything definitive about the 2013 season, but with all the issues the team is going through so far, one of two things is likely true:

Either (1), things can only get better from here and more wins are on the way, or (2), this is simply a sign of things to come.

Time will tell us which is true. Until then, we will just have to wait and see how the team reacts to this early season adversity.

Contact Jim Piascik at [email protected] and @JimPiascik.