9/17/2013 8:59 P.M. ET
No longer focused on velocity, Ubaldo finds top form
By Jordan Bastian / MLB.com
KANSAS CITY -- There are times when Ubaldo Jimenez is tempted to take a peek at the reading on a stadium's radar gun. The Indians' starter allows himself to look every now and then, but he is no longer consumed with pitch velocity like he was over the past two seasons.
"I'm not paying attention to that now," Jimenez said Tuesday. "That's something that I was working on [in the past]. Everybody was telling me, Velocity, velocity, velocity.' So I was trying to get back to who I was velocity-wise."
Jimenez has come to accept that he is no longer the same hard-throwing pitcher he was in his Rockies days, when he led the Majors with a fastball that averaged 96.1 mph in the 2009-10 seasons. These days, the right-hander is making sure to stick with his plan of mixing up his wide array of offerings, even during games in which he feels strong in terms of pitch speed.
That has been the case of late for Jimenez, who has averaged 94-plus mph in three of his last five starts, according to brooksbaseball.net, which compiles PITCHf/x data. That is the best stretch for the righty since the end of the 2011 season. In three September starts, Jimenez averaged 93.7 mph with his sinker, marking his highest average for a month this season.
In his third start of this season, Jimenez's fastball was clocked at 88-89 mph.
"What's been a little bit tougher," Jimenez said, "with how good I feel right now with my velocity, sometimes I have to remind myself that I have four more pitches. I've been able to use those the whole year, so I need to not only throw fastballs. There's been a couple games that I felt so good and I'd throw 10 straight fastballs. That's not me. I have to keep mixing."
Jimenez is 12-9 with a 3.49 ERA over 29 starts, but he has found another gear in the second half. Over his past 20 starts, the right-hander has fashioned a 2.52 ERA. Jimenez's ERA is 1.83 over his past 10 turns and 1.57 across his past five appearances. For the season, Jimenez has posted a career-best rate of 9.1 strikeouts per nine innings.
Indians pitching coach Mickey Callaway said Jimenez's reduced focus on velocity has played a role in the pitcher's success.
"I don't think I really understood that until I got to talk to Ubaldo," said Callaway, who is in his first year as the Tribe's pitching coach. "He was really concerned about that, but trying to throw harder led to more mechanical problems. It just kind of made his mind kind of speed up on him. That's not the best way to go about it. Asking him to throw harder wasn't working."
Aviles happy for former club KC's turnaround
KANSAS CITY -- Mike Aviles does not harbor any hard feels about the Royals. Standing at his locker inside Kauffman Stadium's visitors' clubhouse, the Tribe infielder is happy that his former team is finally experiencing success on the field.
The Indians entered Tuesday's game against Kansas City a half-game back of Texas for the American League's second Wild Card spot. Kansas City was only two games behind Cleveland in both the AL Central and Wild Card races.
"I think it's awesome," Aviles said. "I think it's great to see they've changed everything around. They've got some good pitching. They've always had a good team, but it always felt like they were a couple pitchers away. There was always something that held them back."
Aviles -- selected by Kansas City in the seventh round of the 2003 First-Year Player Draft -- suited up for the Royals in the big leagues in parts of the 2008-11 sesons. During that time, Kansas City averaged more than 92 losses per season. In fact, the Royals lost at least 90 games in 10 of the past 12 seasons, entering this year.
Aviles said the keys to Kansas City's turnaround were the trades that brought starters James Shields, Ervin Santana and Jeremy Guthrie into the fold.
"We had [Zack] Greinke and Gil [Meche] for a little while," Aviles said. "But you've got three guys there now. They've always had a good 'pen. The 'pen has always been good and we always were able to hit. But it was one of those things where you just couldn't win games. That rotation they're rolling out there now, it's night and day compred to what we had going on when I was here."
Aviles, who was traded from the Royals to the Red Sox during the 2011 season, felt Kansas City was showing signs of improvement when he was shipped to Boston.
"It's just the atmosphere, the culture," he said. "You can see it. Even when I was leaving, you could tell they were heading in the right direction. They were trying to change the culture. They had young guys coming up and they were adding pieces here and there. Now, they're going to start expecting to win every year."
Tribe to sell postseason tickets on Monday
KANSAS CITY -- Things are getting serious for the Indians.
On Tuesday, Cleveland announced that tickets for a potential 2013 American League Wild Card Game and the AL Division Series will go on sale to the general public at 10 a.m. ET on Monday. Tickets will be sold online only at Indians.com/2013Postseason.
Heading into Tuesday's tilt against the AL Central-rival Royals, the Indians sat a half-game back of the Rangers for the AL's second Wild Card spot and 1 1/2 games behind the Rays for the top Wild Card position. The Orioles, Royals and Yankees are all within 2 1/2 games of a Wild Card berth.
Including its current series in Kansas City, Cleveland has 12 games remaining in the regular season, with contests against the Royals (two), Astros (four), White Sox (two) and Twins (four). The Tribe entered Tuesday with a 35-17 record this season against those teams.
Beginning on Sept. 24, any remaining tickets for the Wild Card or ALDS games will be available for purchase at Indians.com, as well as at the Progressive Field box office or any Indians Team Shop. Ticket prices vary by playoff round.
Fans wanting to gain access to all potential postseason games played at Progressive Field this October can make a season-ticket deposit for the 2014 regular season through Wednesday at Indians.com/2013Postseason. Any fans who place a deposit for a 2014 season-ticket plan in time will guarantee priority access to all home playoff games.
Current season-ticket holders can secure postseason tickets prior to public availability by visiting Indians.com/Postseason, or by following the instructions included in the invoice recently distributed by the ballclub. Season-ticket holders will receive substantial discounts on postseason tickets for nearly all sections of Progressive Field.
• Indians starter Justin Masterson, sidelined with a strained left oblique, is slated to long toss up to 120 feet Wednesday. The plan calls for Masterson to possibly throw a bullpen session Friday, but the pitcher is hoping to possibly have that changed to Thursday.
"I've been very encouraged. We've been on a great path," Masterson said Tuesday. "They said [I'll throw off a mound] Friday, but we may try to get that moved up."
Indians manager Terry Francona said Masterson will only be permitted to throw off a mound earlier than Friday if the team's medical staff approves.
• Indians rookie infielder Jose Ramirez turned 21 on Tuesday. Ramirez, who was promoted from Double-A Akron as part of Cleveland's September callups, is the fourth-youngest player in the Majors, trailing only Texas' Jurickson Profar, Washington's Bryce Harper and Boston's Xander Bogaerts.
"Now, he can buy a beer," Francona said with a smirk. "He's a cool kid."
• The Indians set a dubious franchise record for a nine-inning game with 17 strikeouts on offense in Monday's 7-1 loss to the Royals. Entering Tuesday, Cleveland had 1,208 strikeouts this season, marking the fourth-highest single-season total in team history. The 2011 Indians set the club mark with 1,269 strikeouts.
Quote to note
"It feels good to go out there and finally have fun once I get to the mound. It wasn't like that last year. It was a nightmare. So finally, I'm having fun, knowing that I'm going to be able to be there for the team."
-- Jimenez, on his improvements this season