Jimenez looks to finish the job
Hurdle calling on rookie to complete sweep of Phillies
DENVER -- Clint Hurdle pulled the plug on Franklin Morales after only three innings in Game 2 of the NL Division Series, a strategic decision that helped the Rockies go up 2-0 in the series.
Hurdle sounded confident on Friday that he'll get more out of Ubaldo Jimenez Saturday night when the Rockies go for the sweep against the Phillies and 44-year-old starter Jamie Moyer.
The fact that Jimenez was two years old (and Morales was in diapers) when Moyer made his Major League debut doesn't faze Hurdle. The last time rookies started back-to-back postseason games was 1997 (Florida's Tony Saunders and Livan Hernandez, according to Elias Sports Bureau).
"I thought Franklin was paddling a little hard [Thursday]," Hurdle said. "I thought he was giving it everything he had. I thought he was pitching with his heart. I just didn't feel like it was going to get us where we needed to get yesterday.
"That being said, my man here is pitching tomorrow. He got to watch Franklin perform. He's got a couple more years under his belt, he has a little more experience; we'll see how it plays out."
At 23, with 16 Major League starts, Jimenez is a veteran compared to the 21-year-old Morales, who went to a big league mound for only the ninth time Thursday.
"It's exciting to be out there, knowing if we win we're going to go to the next stage, so I feel happy, very happy," Jimenez said in English.
Jimenez showed what he was made of last Sunday in an absolute clutch performance, allowing one run on one hit over 6 1/3 innings against the Diamondbacks. He settled for a no-decision, but the Rockies got a win that forced the dramatic Monday night playoff clincher.
He said he will approach Saturday night's assignment the same way he would any start.
"I'm going to change nothing," he said. "I have the DVDs of their hitters and I'll watch before I go to bed, but I'm going to try to do everything the same, no change."
Jimenez is part of the current payoff to the Rockies' Latin American initiative. The 6-foot-4, 200-pound Dominican Republic native signed as a 16-year-old and spent 3 1/2 seasons before reaching Double-A in 2005. He was given a two-game taste of the big leagues last year, but spent most of this season at Triple-A and probably would have finished out the year there if not for the rash of injuries to Aaron Cook, Jason Hirsh and Rodrigo Lopez.
The rotation crisis created opportunities for Jimenez and Morales. Jimenez went 4-4 with a 4.28 ERA in 15 starts.
"He came into Spring Training on the outside looking in," Hurdle said of Jimenez. "He seemed to be in a hurry, wanted to make things happen. He has slowed the game down to his pace. It's not a snail's pace, but when he thinks things are getting a little bit away from him, he has found a way to regroup, stepping off, tapping the dirt, whatever it might be."
Hurdle tosses out words like "maturation" and "poise" to describe the improvement this year in Jimenez, although Hurdle said he saw the transformation beginning when Jimenez went to instructional league the last two falls.
"The command of his secondary pitches has been the most impressive from a skill-set standpoint," he said. "We always knew he could bring the fastball, but the curveball, the changeup, the slider. He has a four-pitch mix he could go to. He's learned a little bit how to pitch without his best stuff and he's learned the importance of pitching both sides of the plate."
Jimenez also seems to know the importance of having fun.
"He has a million-dollar smile and when he uses it, he's got you," said Hurdle. "It's nice when you see it on the mound, not just in the dugout. And the game he pitched for us against the Diamondbacks on Sunday will speak for itself in Rookies' history because it was truly electric stuff."
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.