Originally posted on Fox Sports Ohio  |  Last updated 3/7/12
GOODYEAR, Ariz. - Ubaldo Jimenez feels strong this spring. He feels healthy. He feels wanted. What a difference a year makes for the Cleveland right-hander. Originally signed by the Colorado Rockies, Jimenez used to think he would never pitch for another franchise. Then, prior to last season, the Rockies signed shortstop Troy Tulowitzki and outfielder Carlos Gonzalez to long-term contracts. They put Jimenez, an All-Star in 2010 when he pitched the only no-hitter in franchise history, on hold. Nothing personal, the Rockies said. Jimenez already had a contract that, with two options, gave the team control through 2014, so they felt it was wise to wait and see what happened. It was, after all, a team-friendly deal. Plenty personal, Jimenez said, publicly admitting for the first time he went to spring training a year ago looking to be traded. He got his way, but it wasn't until July 30 when the Indians, looking for a proven arm to help them in a pennant race, dealt highly regarded prospects Alex White and Drew Pomeranz to the Rockies. "I read in the paper that the Rockies said they were only going to sign two guys, they couldn't do three guys," Jimenez told FOXSports.com. "I was the third guy. They signed the two guys they were going to sign and they gave them more (years) and bigger (salaries). " That left Jimenez uneasy when he reported to spring training a year ago. And things went downhill from there. That spring he suffered a cut in the cuticle on his right thumb, greatly affecting how he could grip a baseball. Then the cut became infected. And then he strained his groin, which affected the stride in his delivery. He started Opening Day, but then went on the disabled list for 17 days. When he returned, he said, he wasn't healthy but he wanted to take a regular turn. "The first two months of the season I tried to pitch through the problems, and I never was able to build up the arm strength for my velocity," said Jimenez, who went from upper 90s with his moving fastball in 2010 to high 80s, low 90s a year ago. After going 19-8 with a 2.88 ERA despite calling Coors Field home in 2010, Jimenez was 6-9 with a 4.42 ERA at the time the Rockies traded him though he had won five of his last seven decisions and was only 4-4 with a 5.10 ERA in 11 starts for the Indians. "It wasn't the season I feel I should have, but I am happy I kept pitching," said Jimenez. "I was not going to get traded if I was on the disabled list. I wanted to move from Colorado (from the start of last spring). It wasn't working for me with the team. So I was happy when I got traded." Now, Jimenez wants to make sure the Indians are happy they traded for him. On July 30, the day Jimenez was acquired, the Indians were 53-51, second in the AL Central, 1.5 games back of Detroit. They went 27-31 the rest of the season, still in second but 15 games behind Detroit. Jimenez wasn't enough to make a difference, and says he doesn't feel he was really himself. "By the time I came to Cleveland my arm was fatigued, but I kept pitching," said Jimenez. "They had traded for me. I wasn't going to say I didn't want to pitch for my new team. I appreciated them trading for me. I wanted to help e team, but my velocity was never 100 percent." This spring, Jimenez said, is different. He is healthy. He does have arm strength. And the Indians have added a veteran presence to the rotation. They knew, after all, that last year's rotation, which ranked 10th in the AL with a 4.51 ERA, wasn't good enough. And they knew that any hope of Fausto Carmona bouncing back from his poor season (7-15) was going to be delayed because of legal issues he faces in his native Dominican Republic, where it was disclosed that Carmona, who claimed to be 28, is actually Roberto Hernandez Heredia, age 32. So along with the addition of Jimenez last July, the Indians acquired Derek Lowe from Atlanta and Kevin Slowey from Colorado during the off-season. They also invited Jon Garland to spring training, although he never showed up for his physical and was removed from the spring roster. "This is a new start for me," said Jimenez. "I feel good and I look forward to be the pitcher I am capable of being." Jimenez feels so good that even a statistically ugly spring debut didn't create concern. He lasted only one inning in an 8-6 loss to Cincinnati on Sunday, allowing five runs, four unearned, on five hits. What Jimenez focused on was a fastball that was solidly in the 94-to-96 mile per hour range. "You never want the score to be like that," he said, "but I was throwing a lot of strikes." It was, said Jimenez, a step in the right direction. And there are more major strides that Jimenez needs to take this spring to get back to being the pitcher he was two years ago.
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