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Kid Rockie gets the ball

Rookie Jimenez deserving of start

UBALDO JIMENEZ He'll bring the heat UBALDO JIMENEZ He'll bring the heat
By Jim McCabe
Globe Staff / October 25, 2007

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In their pursuit of a World Series title, the Rockies will go to Ubaldo Jimenez in tonight's Game 2.

In your pursuit of a World Series perspective, be warned if you go to Jimenez it could be a shallow look.

Jimenez, you see, can take you back to Pedro Martínez "my big hero," and the World Series memory of . . . 2004, a mere three autumns ago.

Not much depth there, but go easy on Jimenez. He is but 23 years old and such a young face he could pass as a ballboy. Just don't let looks fool you, because this righthander from the Dominican Republic has been clocked at 100 miles per hour with his fastball.

"That stuff will be electric," said Colorado manager Clint Hurdle of his rookie fireballer. "That's the kind of stuff that every once in a while you step back and you go, 'Wow, that's special.' "

Of course, the jury is still out on that, because Jimenez is that new, that unfamiliar in the landscape. With injuries having forced Hurdle & Co. to make midseason moves, Jimenez was called up from the minors just after the All-Star break. If the Rockies were looking for the young man to fill in the holes, they got much more than they bargained for, because Jimenez has put a firm grip on a starting job - and for good reason.

"He's shown some special poise for a young pitcher," said Hurdle. "He's got good stuff."

Handed a regular spot in the rotation, Jimenez started 15 games for the Rockies and went 4-4 with a 4.22 ERA. OK, they're not Cy Young numbers, but it's pretty impressive stuff when you consider Jimenez hadn't exactly burned it up in Triple A earlier in the year, which sort of made folks wonder what the heck prompted the promotion to begin with.

Hurdle could only smile and shake his head. He has heard that line of questioning before. After all, Jimenez in 19 games for Triple A Colorado Springs had gone 8-5 with a 5.85 ERA, and while one could dismiss those as pedestrian numbers, the Rockies liked many intangibles about the young man. They gave him a shot, and the fact that he'll pitch in a World Series game indicates the faith they have in him.

Honored, yes.

But Jimenez insists he's not overwhelmed, 23 or no 23.

"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," said Jimenez, who conceded that he couldn't resist the temptation: First thing he did when he arrived Tuesday was to head out to see the Green Monster.

"Wow, it's amazing," said Jimenez. "Just imagine it being full of people out there."

There is no mystery to what Hurdle and the Rockies hope to get from Jimenez. He's pitched seven innings just three times, six innings six times. Six of his starts haven't gone past the fifth inning, so it's safe to assume that if Jimenez keeps his team close while eating up five or six innings, it would be deemed a successful night.

But to get to that point, Jimenez knows it will require special treatment against two of his fellow Dominicans - Manny Ramírez and David Ortiz. He was asked how he felt about the prospect of facing such icons.

Jimenez smiled. Then he laughed.

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

That is not only Jimenez's philosophy, it's the team mantra.

"Nobody on this staff pitches away from the bat," said Hurdle, "and I think that's the thing that's going to play out in this series. [Boston is] a very disciplined club, a very offensive club. [But] we don't pitch away from the bat."

In other words, Hurdle wants his pitchers to come at the Red Sox and not be afraid to challenge them. Armed with a fastball that is consistently in the mid- to high 90s, Jimenez is more than happy to follow his manager's wishes.

Jim McCabe can be reached at jmccabe@globe.com.

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