It makes for an easy day, believe it or not. That's the way Rockies catcher Jose Morales feels about it.
Morales started at catcher Sunday afternoon against the Dodgers for the third straight Ubaldo Jimenez start. In the last two, Jimenez pitched 16 innings with two earned runs, 15 strikeouts and no walks. Jimenez beat the Dodgers in a shutout June 1 and lost to the Padres, 2-0, on Tuesday.
"He's an absolutely easy guy to catch when he's on," Morales said. "Even though his fastball is so nasty, and has so much movement, and his other pitches move so much, when he's on, he's hitting every spot. So it's like you put a target there and the ball is going to hit it."
Morales, acquired from the Twins during the offseason, is moving into personal catcher territory for Jimenez, although manager Jim Tracy insists it's not necessarily that way.
Sunday was a day game after a night game, which would be a natural opportunity to rest Chris Iannetta. Also, Iannetta, who caught Jimenez for much of his Minor League career, was behind the plate for three of Jimenez's best games of the season -- two no-decisions against the Giants and a complete-game 3-1 loss to the Brewers on May 22.
But Jimenez went into Sunday with a 3.65 ERA and .165 batting average against with Morales catching, as opposed to 5.36 and .262 numbers while throwing to Iannetta. Whether that has more to do with Jimenez finding his form lately after a thumb injury slowed him early or with the choice of catcher is anyone's guess. But Tracy said he wants to see how Jimenez continues to pitch to Morales.
"When you start to see something that you sense is a real connection, and we've been working hard to get this man [Jimenez] untracked ... we'll see where it goes," Tracy said. "That's not to say that Chris Iannetta doesn't catch Ubaldo Jimenez. I'm not even close to suggesting that."
Morales is happy for the playing time and feels on a good wavelength with Jimenez when it comes to pitch strategy.
"I think he feels comfortable with me back there," Morales said. "I feel comfortable with him. I know his strengths more now than I did before and that makes it easier back there."