Rockies send Ubaldo to Indians
CLEVELAND – In the middle of a surprising season, the Cleveland Indians are getting an ace rather than trading one away.
The Indians acquired the hard-throwing right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez from the Colorado Rockies for three minor leaguers and a player to be named.
The trade, contingent on the 2010 All-Star passing a physical Sunday, is a bold gamble by the Indians’ first-year general manager Chris Antonetti.
Jimenez has lost some of his luster after going 19-8 last year and throwing a no-hitter. He is 6-9 this season with a 4.46 ERA in 21 starts.
But the 27-year-old still hits 96 mph with his fastball and has a team-friendly contract. Jimenez has three years and $18 million left, a small sum for a pitcher entering his prime.
The Indians, 1 1/2 games behind Detroit in the AL Central, have gone all in to try to win the division for the first time since 2007 after making their second trade of the night and third in three days.
“That’s the fun part about being traded to a team like that because right now they’re in a good position,” Jimenez said after his start in San Diego. They’re fighting for first place.”
The Tigers acquired right-hander Doug Fister earlier Saturday to bolster their rotation.
Also Saturday night, Cleveland dealt infielder Orlando Cabrera, who lost his starting job to rookie Jason Kipnis last week, to San Francisco for Triple-A outfielder Thomas Neal. On Thursday, they sent two minor leaguers to the Chicago Cubs for veteran outfielder Kosuke Fukudome.
To obtain Jimenez, Cleveland gave up right-handers Alex White and Joe Gardner and first baseman-outfielder Matt McBride.
Left-hander Drew Pomeranz, one of Cleveland’s top pitching prospects, was pulled from his start at Double-A Akron. He did not sign with Cleveland after being drafted last year until the signing deadline of Aug. 16. No drafted player can be dealt until one calendar year after signing.
The Indians traded Cy Young winners CC Sabathia in 2008 and Cliff Lee in 2009 for a group of prospects, some of which have helped Cleveland go from 90-plus losses the past two seasons to contenders.
Matt LaPorta, the key player in the Sabathia deal, delivered a two-out, three-run homer to cap Cleveland’s four-run ninth for a 5-2 win over Kansas City.
The Indians would not comment on the deal until after results of the physical on Sunday.
“This was a very difficult decision for us to make,” Rockies general manager Dan O’Dowd said in a statement released by the team. “Our focus with this deal was to make our team better in the very near future and we feel like we were able to do that in this situation.
“We believe the timing of this deal also allowed us to maximize the value we were able to get in return.”
The offensively challenged Indians beefed up an already formidable pitching staff by getting Jimenez, who was pulled from his scheduled start Saturday in San Diego after one inning.
He gave up four runs on four walks and two hits to the Padres, making 45 pitches. He went to the dugout and spoke with manager Jim Tracy, then accepted handshakes and hugs from what are now his former teammates.
Jimenez was smiling and later told reporters he had been traded to Cleveland.
“When I got to the mound, I couldn’t even throw a strike because I didn’t have my mind on the game,” Jimenez said.
Jimenez threw a no-hitter against Atlanta in April 2010 and got the nod as starter for the NL All-Star team.
Indians manager Manny Acta would not comment on the deal, but he is quite familiar with the fellow native of the Dominican Republic.
Jimenez is 56-45 with a 3.66 ERA in 138 games, all but one of them as a starter since arriving in the majors with Colorado in 2006.
White, 22, made his big league debut with Cleveland this year, but went on the disabled list May 21 with a strained right middle finger on May 21. The 15th overall pick in the 2009 draft out of North Carolina is 1-0 with a 3.60 ERA for Cleveland.
The 23-year-old Gardner went 7-8 with a 4.99 ERA at Double-A Akron this year. A third-round choice in 2009 from Cal-Santa Barbara, he was 13-6 with a 2.75 ERA combined in two levels of Class A ball a year ago.
McBride, 26, has split 2011 between Akron and Triple-A Columbus, hitting a combined .279 with 15 homers and 56 RBIs. The 75th overall choice in the 2006 draft as a catcher from Lehigh University, he had shoulder surgery early in his minor league career.
The 22-year-old Pomeranz could give the Rockies the most value if he is the player to be named. Cleveland’s first-round pick in 2010, fifth overall, the left-hander began this season at Class A Kinston, going 3-2 with a 1.87 ERA in 15 starts to earn a promotion to Akron. He went 0-1 with a 2.57 ERA in three games with the Aeros.
In 91 innings overall, the former University of Mississippi ace has struck out 112.
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