GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Indians fans have been waiting months to see Ubaldo Jimenez return to pitching like the ace he was two seasons ago. The box score from his spring debut will hardly help make the wait any easier to handle.
On Sunday afternoon, Jimenez surrendered five runs in the first inning of Cleveland's 8-6 loss to the Reds at Goodyear Ballpark. After an inconsistent showing with the Tribe last season, the pitcher knows his latest effort might look rough on the surface.
"It's up to you guys to say they hit the ball soft," Jimenez said with a laugh. "It probably doesn't look good in the paper, but I felt good. Whoever knows about baseball knows that things like this are going to happen. They kept hitting bloopers."
The Tribe's defense did not do Jimenez any favors, either. Two errors -- a fielding gaffe by first baseman Russ Canzler and a throwing miscue on the part of right fielder Aaron Cunningham -- helped open the floodgates for the Reds' five-run outburst. When the smoke cleared, Jimenez was only charged with one earned run.
Cincinnati's Zack Cozart reached on an infield single, Miguel Cairo sent a floater into no-man's land down the right-field line, Wilson Valdez reached on a chopper in front of home plate and Henry Rodriguez hit a soft liner to right. The lone line drive of the bunch was a two-run single off the bat of Willie Harris.
Indians manager Manny Acta had no qualms with Jimenez's 37-pitch effort, which included 25 strikes. The lanky right-hander limited his repertoire to fastballs, sliders and splitters -- the curve and changeup will be added into the mix as his outings lengthen out -- and showed decent command, sound mechanics and health.
"I felt that Ubaldo threw the ball well," Acta said. "He had good stuff. They didn't hit the ball hard. One guy hit the ball hard. You can't control the choppers and the bloopers and stuff. I felt that he threw the ball well. Unfortunately, we didn't play good defense."
There will still surely be fans who see the five runs and five hits allowed, along with one walk, and worry that it will be more of the same from Jimenez this season. Last year, after being acquired from the Rockies in a blockbuster deal at the July 31 Trade Deadline, Jimenez went 4-4 with a 5.10 ERA in 11 outings down the stretch.
All Jimenez could offer was that he feels better than he has in years.
"I felt really good out there," said Jimenez, who blames a handful of nagging injuries for his mound woes last season. "My arm felt good -- strong. I'm ready to go. Everything is feeling 100 percent right now. It's been a long time since I've felt like that."
Tomlin not taking spring games lightly
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- The last thing Josh Tomlin wants to do right now is become too comfortable with his new-found job security. Even though the Indians' starter knows there is a spot awaiting him in the rotation, he is not treating this spring in that manner.
"I'm still going to go out there and compete," Tomlin said. "There's guys always wanting to take your spot. There's always guys good enough to take your spot. So, for me, it's just going out there competing and trying to do the best I can. Hopefully, that takes care of itself in the end."
During Sunday's 8-6 loss to the Reds, Tomlin carved Cincinnati's lineup to the tune of two shutout innings in his Cactus League debut. The right-hander surrendered a pair of leadoff hits, but he limited the damage with two strikeouts and four outs created via ground balls.
It was a typically efficient outing for a pitcher who relies on pinpoint command.
"He throws strikes, changes speeds," Indians manager Manny Acta said. "That's what he does. He makes pitches."
As things currently stand, Justin Masterson will begin the season as the Indians' No. 1 starter with Ubaldo Jimenez behind him in the second slot. Tomlin and Derek Lowe also project to be on the starting staff, with the fifth job up for grabs.
All things considered, Tomlin likes how the rotation is shaping up.
"I feel good about it," he said. "There's a lot of guys on that staff that can log innings and good quality innings. And I think that's the biggest thing for a starter -- trying to keep your team in the game for as long as you can."
Tomlin proved reliable in that regard over the past two seasons by setting a modern day Major League record for consecutive appearances (37) with at least five innings to begin a career. Overall last year, the right-hander went 12-7 with a 4.25 ERA in 26 starts before a right elbow injury ended his season in late August.
Tomlin entered Spring Training back at full strength, and he is trying to find his midseason form as swiftly as possible.
"I want to face this like it's June," he said of his spring outings. "If somebody's up there, and I want to throw a curveball first pitch, then that's what I'll do. You only have two innings to kind of work on that stuff. For me, it's just trying to throw all my pitches for a strike."
Quote to note
"When I was a little kid, I was trying to be like Pedro Martinez. I started doing these mechanics when [I hurt my right shoulder] in 2004. I was trying to find a way where my arm didn't hurt, so that's how I've been throwing since then." -- Indians starter Ubaldo Jimenez, on the origin of his funky delivery
Indians closer Chris Perez (strained left oblique) said on Sunday that he is optimistic about his chances to resume a throwing program by Tuesday or Wednesday. Perez added that he is hopeful of being able to return to game action around his goal date of March 15. "I think I can beat that," Perez said.
Indians left-handed reliever Rafael Perez, who has been dealing with some soreness in his throwing shoulder, resumed playing catch on Saturday. Head athletic trainer Lonnie Soloff indicated that Perez was able to build up to throwing from a distance of 90 feet with no issues on Sunday and could be back on a mound soon.
Indians right-hander Jeanmar Gomez, who is competing for the fifth spot in the rotation, turned in two shutout innings in Sunday's game against the Reds. Gomez allowed no hits and no walks and ended with three strikeouts. Other candidates for the fifth role include Kevin Slowey, David Huff and Zach McAllister.
The Indians are scheduled to play a "B" game against the White Sox at 12 p.m. ET on Monday at Cleveland's player development complex in Goodyear, Ariz. Pitchers from big league camp listed as available for the unofficial game include Chris Seddon, Tyler Sturdevant, Danny Salazar and Chen-Chang Lee.
Indians Opening Day starter Justin Masterson is scheduled to make his Cactus League debut when the Tribe takes on the Reds in a 3:05 p.m. ET tilt on Monday at Goodyear Ballpark. Also listed as available to pitch for Cleveland are Derek Lowe, McAllister, Tony Sipp and Dan Wheeler.