Ubaldo plunks Tulo as benches clear
Feud between former teammates spills onto field
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Ubaldo Jimenez has been smiling a lot this spring, going as far as comparing pitching for the Indians to being in heaven compared to his experience with the Rockies. Jimenez says he has a peace of mind for the first time in years.
On Sunday, Jimenez shed his relaxed demeanor at Salt River Fields, throwing his glove to the ground and pounding his chest as Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki threatened to charge the mound in the first inning. Jimenez had just hit Tulowitzki on the left elbow with a pitch, leading to a bench-clearing incident that added more drama to an ongoing soap opera.
"It's one pitch that got away," Jimenez said. "That can happen in a thousand games. It's one pitch."
Cleveland acquired Jimenez in a blockbuster five-player deal at the July 31 Trade Deadline last season. This spring, the right-hander has hinted at unfair treatment as he worked his way up Colorado's system and noted that he felt a lack of respect from the Rockies with their unwillingness to lock him up with a lucrative long-term contract.
The result has been an exchanging of jabs in a variety of reports throughout Spring Training.
Two players who have criticized Jimenez this spring are Tulowitzki and outfielder Carlos Gonzalez, who both received long-term pacts from Colorado. In one recent Denver Post column, Tulowitzki had some choice words for Jimenez, who had a desire to be traded by the Rockies since the start of last season.
"If someone doesn't want to be here," Tulowitzki said Friday, "We always say, 'Please, go up to the manager and tell him you want to leave or that you don't think this is the best place for you.' That was kind of the case with him.
"He has come out and said there were some contract issues after CarGo and me got paid. It doesn't make any sense to me. He had signed his deal and had years left on it. Why would we give him something new when we didn't see anything out of him?"
Tulowitzki signed a seven-year, $134 million extension, and Gonzalez signed a seven-year, $80 million contract to avoid arbitration after a monster year in 2010. Jimenez signed for four years and $10 million before the 2009 season.
Gonzalez was scratched from Sunday's lineup because of a stomach ailment.
There were also accusations that Jimenez did not work as hard as he could have to prepare for the season a year ago. Jimenez suffered a finger injury and a groin injury during Spring Training, and labored through an inconsistent season that saw him finish 10-13 with a 4.68 ERA between stints with the Indians and Rockies.
In the previous season, Jimenez went 19-8 with a 2.88 ERA and was a contender for the National League Cy Young Award.
Earlier this spring, after Jimenez had revealed his displeasure with the Rockies to FoxSports.com columnist Tracy Ringolsby, Gonzalez and Tulowitzki fired back in a story by CBS.com columnist Scott Miller. Gonzalez questioned Jimenez's contract strategy.
"The problem was, we all had great seasons [in 2010]," Gonzalez said. "Tulo got an extension, I got an extension, and he didn't because he was under contract. He took a contract earlier than me and Tulo.
"Sometimes, you make decisions that hurt you later. You have to realize that no one forces you to do anything in this game. Every decision you make is going to be there for the rest of your life."
Jimenez noted on Sunday that he never specifically complained about Tulowitzki or Gonzalez.
"The thing is I never talked about anyone," Jimenez said. "The only thing I said was how the team treated me. I never mentioned anybody. I never mentioned any names."
Indians manager Manny Acta was not aware of any bad blood between Jimenez and Tulowitzki.
"I don't know if they have any history. Those guys were teammates forever," Acta said. "Ubaldo, he was pretty wild today, too. He hasn't been master of command. I don't know if there is anything behind it. I have no knowledge of it."
Sunday's outing -- Jimenez's final tuneup start for the regular season -- marked the first time the pitcher has faced his former teammates since being traded to the Tribe.
In the first inning, Jimenez issued a walk to leadoff man Marco Scutaro before striking out Tyler Colvin. That brought Tulowitzki to the plate, setting the stage for a few tension-filled minutes. With his first pitch, Jimenez sent a fastball high and inside, where it struck the Rockies' star shortstop on the arm.
Following Jimenez's outing, in which he allowed six runs on four hits over 4 1/3 innings, the Indians were not going to make the pitcher available to the media. The pitcher said he wanted to talk to reporters, however, even though stadium management wanted to rush him off site swiftly due to safety concerns.
Despite how it looked, and regardless of the backstory, Jimenez insisted that the pitch simply got away from him.
"I didn't have good control of my fastball," Jimenez said. "You guys could see. I walked the first guy probably on four pitches. [Tulowitzki] is one of the best hitters in the game. You have to try to go inside on him and that's what I tried to do."
Rockies manager Jim Tracy did not see things that way.
"If there's any suggestion that the ball got away, I don't want to hear any of that," Tracy said. "[It's] the most gutless act I've seen in 35 years in the game."
Tulowitzki immediately began heading toward the mound while barking at the pitcher.
"You're going to have to talk to him to see if it was intentional or unintentional," Tulowitzki told reporters. "My whole thing is I was up there in my at-bat trying to compete as much as I do. I didn't expect anything. Just the emotions took over. A couple of words were exchanged"
Jimenez claimed that the shortstop's reaction -- not to mention his words -- are what caused him to walk off the mound, pounding his chest and challenging Tulowitzki to charge.
"As soon as he hit me, it seemed like he wanted a little more," Tulowitzki said. "That's when the confrontation kind of took place."
The pitcher said he had no plans of getting into a fight with Tulowitzki until the shortstop began calling him names.
"He was calling me a chicken, but not a chicken," Jimenez said. "[He used] another really aggressive word that I can't say right now. That's why I was [doing that]. I said, 'You're calling me out?' ... I never look for any trouble, but if you call me out I'm going to be there. I'm a man like everybody else."
Asked if it looked like Jimenez or Tulowitzki took the first step at the other, Acta shrugged his shoulders.
"Mutual reaction, I guess," Acta said. "There was a lot of shouting. It's part of it. Manhood, man. Nobody wants to back down."
Both benches cleared, no punches were thrown and no players were ejected from the contest. It took several minutes to clear the field, while both Jimenez and Tulowitzki were being held back by their teammates. Jimenez continued to shout and point at the shortstop throughout the ordeal, and Tulowitzki stormed off the field and left the game.
Acta was hardly thrilled to see a mob of his players on the field with a fight brewing only a few days before the season opener.
"It's kind of late to be doing that," Acta said. "You don't want anybody getting hurt. I hope [Tulowitzki] is OK. You really don't want to get into a fight and lose a key player from either side. But it happens. It's part of the game."
Tulowitzki was replaced by a pinch-runner and taken to a local hospital, where X-rays on his left elbow came back negative for any structural damage. Told that there was a chance Tulowitzki might have been injured on the play, Jimenez did offer an apology.
"Of course, I'm going to be sorry," Jimenez said. "He's one of the superstar players in the game. As a player, you love to see him play. You don't want to be in that position where you take the guy out of the game. He was my ex-teammate.
"I don't want to hurt him at all. It's just one pitch that got away. It could happen to anybody."