Jimenez to the bullpen

CHICAGO—The Orioles have moved struggling starter Ubaldo Jimenez to the bullpen, manager Buck Showalter announced on Tuesday.

Signed to a four-year, $50 million deal this winter —the largest contact in club history for a free-agent pitcher— Jimenez has dealt with injury and ineffectiveness and gave up six earned runs over 4 1/3 innings this weekend in Cleveland. After that game, Showalter wouldn’t commit to whether Jimenez —4-9 with a 4.83 ERA— would get a chance to redeem himself, though this move seemed likely.

Particularly with right-hander Miguel Gonzalez, who will start Sunday, waiting in the wings.

“You got your reasons, he doesn’t have to agree with them,” Showater said of Jimenez, who he spoke to on Tuesday afternoon along with pitching coach Dave Wallace and bullpen coach Dom Chiti. “He’s been a great teammate, a professional. Has got a good heart. He wants to do well. It’s not like he’s pitched poorly all year, it’s just with 39 games left, just see how Gonzo does.

Gonzalez, who was optioned to the Minor Leagues to clear a roster spot for Jimenez, has pitched to a 3.80 ERA in 20 games (19 starts) and threw a simulated game Monday to stay on track. The move won’t be immediate with Jimenez taking his work day on Tuesday, but Showalter planned on having the right-hander available after that.

“After today [Jimenez] will probably be available in the bullpen,” Showalter said. “We will see where it takes us moving forward where the need might be. if somebody needs an extra day or something…that target is trying to get though to [roster expansion] September 1. So, we got about less than two weeks.”

How Jimenez is used in the Orioles bullpen depends on how they clear a roster spot for Gonzalez on Sunday. If the team plays with a short bench, it’d be tough to see Jimenez getting a lot of outs, although if the O’s option a pitcher he would presumably take their place.

Jimenez has made just one career relief appearance, going one scoreless inning on September 26, 2006. How will he fare in a relief role?

“I don’t think anybody can sit here and answer that,” Showalter said. “I know he will embrace that as the need of the club it is. A lot of it depends on if we go with 13 pitchers or 12. How that all works out. He’s healthy, feels good, one of the reasons why we looked at he was one of the few guys that health wasn’t going to be -knock on wood- a factor.

“Hopefully we can get him back to where he was last year. It’s going to be tough because he’s not going to sit there and take a lot of work days because it’s a very valuable job he’s going to have to do some now and then.”

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