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Fear not, Jimenez ready for potent Sox

Rookie Jimenez embracing Game 2 start

BOSTON -- Having watched their ace, Jeff Francis, get knocked around in Game 1 of the World Series, the Colorado Rockies turn now to their rookie right-hander, Ubaldo Jimenez, to get them even with the Red Sox.

The Mile High outfit clearly feels its Game 2 fate is in capable hands.

"This is a young guy in age, just 23, but it's like he's been around a little longer than that," said batterymate Yorvit Torrealba. "Nothing bothers him. We expect a good start from him.

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Jimenez faces a daunting task on Thursday night: a rookie trying to contain a Red Sox offensive juggernaut that has scored 43 runs in its last four games. But in his last three starts -- two in the postseason -- he hasn't pitched like a rookie, allowing just three earned runs over 17 2/3 innings.

"He's very relaxed," Francis said of Jimenez, the Dominican Republic product who showed poise and toughness against Philadelphia and Arizona in his two playoff starts. "Obviously, he's got dominant stuff when he's on.

"He's probably done more than we've expected of him in such a short time. He's turned into a dominant Major League pitcher."

A quick study with only 15 regular-season starts, Jimenez could see from Francis' struggles the need to throw strikes in good locations and keep the ball down, out of harm's way.

"That's the focus of any pitcher, to keep guys off-balance and get them to hit it softly on the ground," Francis said. "He can get the job done."

Jimenez's cool countenance was apparent when he was asked about the challenge of facing countrymen David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez in the heart of the Boston lineup.

"I know it has to come, so I just let it come," Jimenez said. "I'm not worried about it. I'm going to go out there and face everybody like it's the same, just throw strikes and go after them."

Ask him about the perils of Fenway Park, made evident by the Red Sox accumulating 17 hits (including a Series record-tying eight doubles) in Game 1, and Jimenez smiles.

"I've never pitched here before," he said. "I just heard it's a fun place to pitch, so I don't feel any pressure. I'm just really excited about it.

"It's so nice to be here, because there's a lot of history here in this stadium. Like when we came here [Tuesday], the first thing I did was go out there and just go, `Wow, it's amazing.' Just imagine it being full of people out there."

As always, Jimenez will follow the lead of his catcher, Torrealba, a man he respects completely.

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"He's the biggest key for our success, for every pitcher," the 6-foot-4 right-hander said. "Because he's like the guy. He'll tell you everything you have to do."

Jimenez has a big arm to go with considerable charm. His fastball consistently finds the high 90s on radar guns, and he has a big-bending breaking ball to go with it. When he's working quickly and decisively, hitting his spots, keeping his defenders alert and in tune, the big kid is a handful.

Jimenez has been a factor in the Rockies' remarkable run to and through October, filling a vital role in manager Clint Hurdle's rotation in the second half.

"That stuff will be electric," Hurdle said. "That's the kind of stuff that every once in a while, you step back and you go, `Wow -- that's special.' He's shown some special poise for a young pitcher."

If success truly breeds confidence, Jimenez has every right to take a good feeling to the mound against Red Sox Game 2 starter Curt Schilling, a man who launched his Major League career when Jimenez was 4 years old.

After going 4-4 with a 4.28 ERA in those 15 regular-season starts -- he yielded more than three earned runs only once, against the Dodgers on Sept. 25 -- Jimenez has flourished in October.


"That stuff will be electric. That's the kind of stuff that every once in a while, you step back and you go, `Wow -- that's special.' He's shown some special poise for a young pitcher."
-- Rockies manager Clint Hurdle

He went five innings, giving up one run, in Game 3 against the Phillies on Oct. 6 in Denver, wrapping up the National League Division Series three-sweep. In Game 2 of the NL Championship Series against the Diamondbacks in Arizona, Jimenez lasted 6 1/3 innings, surrendering a run on three hits, albeit with a second straight no-decision.

Hurdle credits Torrealba with easing Jimenez's transition to the big time.

"He's been a quality dynamic for us behind the plate," Hurdle said. "His pitch selection has been so very, very good, his touch and feel with each individual pitcher.

"It's not one concept he's tried to throw on everybody. He's taken the pitchers, knows their strengths, broken them down. Reads the other players, knows when to give them a pat on the back or a smack on the backside. He plays with a lot of emotion, which I fit fits into our club very well, also."

A Venezuelan, Torrealba caught a career-high 113 games this season and guided all seven of the Rockies postseason triumphs. His touch and feel have been especially important with Jimenez, keeping a crisp tempo.

"He communicates very well with anybody we have on the mound," Hurdle said, praising Torrealba for bridging communication gaps with Jimenez and Franklin Morales, who had a rocky Series debut (two-thirds of an inning, seven earned runs) in Game 1 out of the bullpen.

Jimenez's selection as the Game 2 starter shows the level of Hurdle's confidence in a guy with 19 games' worth of big league experience.

"We don't want him thinking too much," Hurdle said. "He has to have a plan going in that they can really rely on as far as calling the game -- putting [a sign] down, shaking yes and going."

When he puts on his game face, leaving the smile behind, Jimenez hopes to make a favorable impression on another Dominican Republic pitcher of some renown in New England.

"Pedro Martinez," Jimenez said, grinning, "he's my big hero."

Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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