SURPRISE, Ariz. — During a radio interview in the media room at Goodyear Ballpark on Thursday, right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez revealed that before he chose professional baseball as a career, he was excelling in another sport as well.
Not surprisingly, considering his 6-foot-6, 210-pound frame, Jimenez claims he was also a pretty good basketball player.
“I played basketball all the time until I turned pro (in baseball),” Jimenez said.
Though he was more suited for post play, Jimenez said that he preferred to shoot from “far away.”
When asked if he could dunk, Jimenez said with a smile, “No, but I could dribble really good,” as he demonstrated some of his ball-handling skills without the ball.
Baseball is what wound up paying the bills for Jimenez, who is looking to rebound from a disappointing first full season with the Indians in 2012 — 9-17, 5.40 ERA in 31 starts.
“Last year, the first couple months, I had the ball in my hand but I didn’t know what to do with it,” Jimenez said. “It was frustrating for sure.”
The Indians think they may have discovered a solution to Jimenez’s problem. New pitching coach Mickey Callaway noticed that Jimenez is nearly a full second slower in his windup than he was during his successful days in Colorado.
According to Francona, Jimenez has looked smooth since training camp began. He made his exhibition debut Monday, pitching two scoreless innings and allowing just a hit and a walk.
“It’s been really good,” Jimenez said of his training camp. “I’m working really hard on all the things I’m supposed to.”
Right-hander Brett Myers prides himself on pitching deep into games, which means he isn’t fond of being removed. According to Francona, he conveyed as much during his first phone conversation with his new manager.
“Hey, I just want you to know that I don’t like you coming out to get the ball,” Francona said Myers told him. “I was like, ‘I really don’t like coming to get it.’ That can be very helpful in the middle of our rotation, a guy that the hope is he can stay out there. If he stays out there, he’s got a chance to win, but you’re not ruining the bullpen for the other days.”
In his last two seasons as a starter with Houston (2010-11), Myers logged a combined 439 2/3 innings.
Reason to fret?
Rotation candidate Daisuke Matsuzaka made his second appearance of the spring and allowed two runs on four hits — one of them a two-run home run to Texas’ Mitch Moreland.
One radar gun had Matsuzaka throwing between 82-85 mph, but Francona didn’t sound concerned.
“He looked solid,” Francona said. “He just left that one pitch (to Moreland) right over the middle of the plate.”
Back out there
Joe Smith (strained oblique) threw his first live batting practice session (25 pitches) without incident. The right-hander could make his exhibition debut next week.
The Indians announced that they have lowered some concession stand prices at Progressive Field for the upcoming season. Included are $3 hot dogs and $4 beers. … Arizona State and second-ranked Arkansas played a tournament game at Surprise Stadium after the Indians and Rangers were complete. … Today, 3:05 p.m. vs. White Sox at Goodyear Ballpark. Masterson (1-0, 0.00 ERA) vs. Sale (0-0, 0.00). Rotation candidates Scott Kazmir and David Huff, and relievers Chris Perez and Matt Capps are also scheduled to appear.
Contact Chris Assenheimer at 329-7136 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Fan him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.