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Jimenez on time, on mark in first start

Jimenez on time, on mark in first start

PHOENIX -- Despite what happened last time, the Rockies allowed right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez to make the drive from Tucson, Ariz., for his start against the Dodgers at Camelback Ranch on Tuesday afternoon.

But Jimenez wasn't going to end up in an interstate traffic jam while the game started, like he did Friday, when he was supposed to start against the Angels in Tempe, Ariz. He left later than the team bus. A major traffic accident caused Interstate 10 to be closed, and Jimenez wound up stuck. But Tuesday, he informed manager Jim Tracy of his improved strategy.

"I said, 'I'm going to be just behind the bus,'" Jimenez said.

Jimenez, projected as the Opening Day starter, was on time and mostly on the mark against the Dodgers. He went three scoreless innings and struck out two.

It wasn't perfect. Jimenez pitched around three walks -- one on four pitches to Rafael Furcal to open the game -- and a wild pitch but managed not to be hurt by a strong wind that blew to left field. He actually felt he kept the ball lower in the strike zone against the Angels, when he gave up four runs, three earned, on three hits and two walks. He struck out three that day.

"This game, I was missing a couple balls up, but the good thing about it was my fastball was moving around a lot," said Jimenez, who plans to throw four innings in his next start.

Nonetheless, Jimenez hit 96 mph twice with his fastball. Add that to an 83 mph slider and 74 mph curveball. It's a tough mix to hit, whether it's March 9 or the middle of the season.

Jimenez also forced two double-play grounders. The Dodgers' Xavier Paul led off the third with a triple off the top of the center-field wall, 410 feet away. But Jimenez forced Brad Asumus to ground to the mound. After walking Rafael Furcal, Jimenez beat Matt Kemp on a 96 mph heater inside to start the at-bat. Kemp eventually hit into an inning-ending double play.

"It tells you that locating the fastball can get you out of trouble," Jimenez said.

Thomas Harding 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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