The Latin Link: Rockies ruin Ubaldo’s exit

Colorado pitching coach Bob Apodaca says his goodbyes to Ubaldo Jimenez after the Rockies pitcher's mysterious one-inning outing last night. (AP/Chris Park)

Ubaldo Jimenez will have mixed feelings about his six-year tenure with the Colorado Rockies. The fond memories will be of manager Jim Tracy and the fact that he was the club’s premier starting pitcher the last three seasons. And he’ll never forget tossing that no-hitter against the Atlanta Braves, the first such performance in Rockies history.

The other side of the coin will be Ubaldo’s uncomfortable exit in a Colorado uniform. With truthful rumors swirling that he had already been traded to the Cleveland Indians in a controversial deadline deal, Jimenez was told to head for the bullpen and warm up for Saturday night’s game in San Diego against the Padres. And when he surrendered four runs and four walks in an ugly, one-inning swan song, adoring fans watching on television in Denver must have had a bad taste in their mouth.

“I didn’t know what I was doing out there,” Jimenez replied. “I mean, everybody knew I had been traded, even me.

“My mind wasn’t there,” he continued. “I couldn’t even throw strikes.”

Blame the media if you want, but the Rockies had dealt with a public relations nightmare ever since Jimenez was put on the trading block. First it was leaked that Ubaldo must be “damaged goods” and buyer beware. Then there was the mythical rift with longtime pitching coach Bob Apodaca and that a trade was demanded.

“That’s crazy,” said Ubaldo. “He (Apodaca) has been like a father to me.”

Enter Rockies General Manager Dan O’Dowd.

“I don’t know where that came from,” the executive laughed. “Ubaldo is the nicest kid you’d ever want to meet.”

But just when O’Dowd thought he had achieved damage control, the blunder at PETCO Park created an avalanche of awkwardness. For some reason, Tracy was not told the trade was “official” until a few minutes prior to game time. Yet, had already made the announcement and Drew Poweranz, the Indians principal pawn in the deal, had been scratched from his start at double-A Akron. I know there was a difference in time zones, but why did everyone in the world know what went down except Tracy?

As much as I’ve tried to weigh the circumstances, I can’t figure out what Rockies management was thinking. What was the upside in sending Jimenez out there in a meaningless situation when his head wasn’t right? What if he got hurt and the Indians pulled out of the agreement? I just don’t get it. What is clear to me, though, is that the Rockies handled this affair without dignity or even a touch of class. At least Colorado’s numerous Latino players showed Jimenez the respect he deserves.

“He (Ubaldo) was always working with me and teaching me how to pitch,” revealed Esmil Rogers, who relieved Jimenez in that inning from hell. “He won’t be here anymore, but I’ll still be talking to him.”

Tracy, for his part, was emotional about Ubaldo’s departure, showing he truly cared about his player.

“It’s very hard,” said the skipper, his voice cracking. “Ubaldo’s meant so much to this organization and to me personally as a manager.”

The Jimenez trade made Cleveland manager Manny Acta a happy man, rekindling a close relationship he had with Ubaldo in the Dominican Republic. In turn, Acta did a nice favor for Orlando Cabrera, whose hustle and leadership has been a big reason why the Indians remain a division contender. The Colombian’s unselfish play was rewarded when he was shipped before the deadline to the San Francisco Giants. The Tribe’s infield is deep with young talent, and Manny was instrumental in giving the veteran Cabrera the opportunity to join Carlos Delgado and win another ring.

Nice touch by Acta. Perhaps the Rockies front office should take notice.


One sidebar to Cleveland’s acquisition of Kosuke Fukudome was Abner Abreu, a 21-year-old Dominican outfielder who’s built and hits a lot like Alfonso Soriano. The 6′-3″, 185-pounder was tearing the Carolina League apart with a .762 slugging percentage when he got news of the trade.

“I’m very, very excited,” said Abreu, who probably won’t make his debut at Wrigley Field for a couple of years. “It’s an honor to be involved in a trade with a player like Fukudome.”

Given the Cubs commitment to a youth movement, it’s surprising that they haven’t tried to move veteran Aramis Ramirez for prospects. I know Ramirez is a 10 and five guy with a no trade clause, but he’s also a free agent at the end of the season. Furthermore, he’s having an excellent season and could provide added offense for a team like the Atlanta Braves. We’ll see if Ramirez softens his stance and rents his bat to a division contender.

The St. Louis Cardinals, with the clock ticking, continued to show they want to win now by grabbing Rafael Furcal from the financially handicapped Los Angeles Dodgers. Furcal, who like Ramirez could void any trade, accepted the deal and will shore up the shaky shortstop spot for the Redbirds, who run the risk of losing Albert Pujols and others to free agency next year.

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