Ubaldo places third in NL Cy Young vote

Ubaldo places third in NL Cy Young vote

DENVER -- Rockies right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez doesn't mind falling short of the National League Cy Young Award, which went to Roy Halladay on Tuesday.

Jimenez vows that his breakout performance in 2010 -- 19-8, 2.88 ERA -- was just a beginning.

"This is my third [full] year in the big leagues," Jimenez said. "I'm getting to the point that I'm starting to be a better pitcher. As the years go by, I'm supposed to be better. That gives me a lot of hope for the years to come."

Jimenez, who will turn 27 on Jan. 22, set club records for wins, ERA, strikeouts (214) and fewest home runs yielded (10). He also threw the first no-hitter in club history on April 17, a 4-0 victory over the Braves at Turner Field, and became the first Rockies pitcher to start the All-Star Game.

The Cy Young Award voting by the Baseball Writers' Association of America, in which Jimenez came in third place, offers a chance to honor the best pitching season in Rockies history. Celebrations already have taken place in his home country, the Dominican Republic.

Results of the BBWAA voting for the National League Cy Young Award. Points are awarded on a 7-4-3-2-1 basis.
PITCHER 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th PTS
Roy Halladay, Phillies 32 - - - - 224
Adam Wainwright, Cardinals - 28 3 - 1 122
Ubaldo Jimenez, Rockies - 4 19 8 1 90
Tim Hudson, Braves - - 3 13 4 39
Josh Johnson, Marlins - - 5 5 9 34
Roy Oswalt, Astros/Phillies - - 1 3 5 14
Brian Wilson, Giants - - - 1 5 7
Heath Bell, Padres - - 1 - 1 4
Mat Latos, Padres - - - 1 2 4
Brett Myers, Astros - - - 1 - 2
Tim Lincecum, Giants - - - - 2 2
Bronson Arroyo, Reds - - - - 1 1
Matt Cain, Giants - - - - 1 1

Last month, the Tigres de Licey, a team Jimenez has performed for in winter ball for several seasons, held a special on-field ceremony for him. Jimenez joined Ramon Martinez and one-time Rockies closer Jose Jimenez on the field as three of the four Dominicans to throw a Major League no-hitter. Hall of Famer Juan Marichal, who has reached out to Jimenez on many occasions, was the other no-no author.

Jimenez, who said he would like to pitch in the Dominican before Spring Training if the Rockies give him the go-ahead, accepts all of the adoration with an easy smile.

"Every time I pitched, they were in front of the TV. There were people just calling me. They even asked me, 'When are you coming? We want to go to the airport to see you, have a parade or something like that,'" Jimenez said. "I don't know. I'm not that kind [of guy]. But if I have to do it for them, I'll do it. They enjoy me."

But the honors don't lessen Jimenez's feeling that he isn't fully grown as a pitcher.

Through his first 12 starts, Jimenez had a microscopic 0.78 ERA, and the number didn't peek above 2.00 until his 17th outing. He was 15-1 at the All-Star break and was the first pitcher since the Braves' Greg Maddux in 1988 to have as many wins at the break.

In the second half, however, he was 4-7 with a 3.80 ERA.

In many of those starts, it was hard to fault Jimenez. Five times during the season, including three times after he tied the franchise wins record with his 17th on Aug. 4, the Rockies didn't score a single run with him on the mound. The Rockies' 6-5 victory over the Brewers at Coors Field on Aug. 15 should have gone under Jimenez's win column, but the normally dependable Clint Barmes misjudged an eighth-inning popup to allow Milwaukee to tie the game, and Colorado won it in the ninth.

"It's tough," Barmes said later. "I love 'Baldy' to death. He knows I'd do anything for him, and he's that type of guy. It's one of those where he's picked us up for a lot of years, as long as I've played with him. To drop a ball like that is not easy."

But his final start, in the next-to-last game of the Rockies' season, was most maddening. Jimenez held the Cardinals scoreless for eight innings and struck out 10. But the Rockies, who had serious problems functioning offensively after being eliminated from playoff contention, couldn't score against Kyle Lohse, who entered the game with a 7.00-plus ERA. The Cards won, 1-0, in 13 innings.

Now Jimenez is still looking for his first 20-win season.

"You look at the games that he's pitched from a run-support standpoint when it wasn't there, the job should already be done," Rockies manager Jim Tracy said at season's end.

Still, Jimenez points to himself, not to bad luck or teammates.

What sticks with Jimenez is the adjustments the most familiar opponents made late in the year. From July 3 to season's end, Jimenez faced NL West foes nine times. Jimenez was 3-5 with a 4.40 ERA, and the team was 3-6.

Jimenez went at least six innings in all but one game, lasted seven innings three times and eight innings once. Some of those could be blamed on a lack of run support. But Jimenez put some of the blame on himself.

"After the second time I faced a team like Arizona or the Padres, they had a different approach at the plate," Jimenez said. "They were taking a lot of pitches, and whenever I threw a strike, they were fouling it off. But I was beating myself in some of those situations. They're good hitters, but sometimes as a pitcher you beat yourself.

"I fell behind in the counts, and the count works in their advantage. That's something they were trying to do -- make me throw pitches just to see how many strikes I can throw."

The exacting self-evaluation pleases Rockies pitching coach Bob Apodaca. During the early part of the season, when Jimenez fashioned two streaks of 25 consecutive scoreless innings and experts were wondering if he would finish the year with a sub-2.00 ERA, Apodaca sensed Jimenez still was learning his craft.

"I kept saying over and over during the first half, 'Do I think he can get better?' Absolutely he can get better," Apodaca said. "He had to develop the ability to stay comfortable on the mound instead of trying to create more; more is not your ally. More can be your worst enemy. His last games were very important games for him in that he tried to do less but gained more. He didn't lose one mile per hour on his velocity. He threw much more economically. He executed his plan, instead of diverting from a play. It was something very welcoming to my eyes."

Now the Rockies are celebrating Jimenez being considered one of the best pitchers in his league. This time a year ago, they were wrestling with whether he was ready to be the No. 1 pitcher on the team.

"We were asking in our organization meetings was he a No. 1 pitcher on a starting staff?" Apodaca said. "Can he go out there and face the other team's No. 1 pitcher and control the ballgame?

"Did he have the ability to do it? Absolutely. But can he do it? Will he do it? This year answered that question."

Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Hardball in the Rockies, and follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.