DENVER – A cracked cuticle was the culprit in Ubaldo Jimenez's unusually poor performance on opening day, and it could force him to miss his next start.
The Colorado Rockies' ace said Saturday that he was putting ointment on the cut and taping it up for two days in hopes of avoiding infection and speeding the healing.
Both Jimenez and manager Jim Tracy expressed confidence that the right-hander, who started the All-Star game for the NL last season, would make his next start Thursday at Pittsburgh.
"I think it will be good, especially because we have an extra day," with no game Monday, Jimenez said.
Tracy, however, said he wouldn't hesitate to skip Jimenez if he's still feeling the effects of the injury.
"I had a conversation with him today and we're going to keep a close eye on it, I can promise you that," Tracy said. "Because I don't want to see him go out there and try to pitch like that again next Thursday, I don't want to see it."
On Friday, Jimenez couldn't grip the ball properly and lacked spin on his breaking pitches and oomph on his fastballs, surrendering six runs and seven hits over six innings against Arizona. At times, it looked as if Jimenez was throwing batting practice to the Diamondbacks, who collected six extra-base hits off him in a game they won 7-6 in 11 innings.
Afterward, Jimenez said he just had a bad day at the ballpark. On Saturday, he acknowledged the real reason for his awful outing.
"I didn't feel comfortable with my thumb and I couldn't put any pressure on the ball," Jimenez said. "It's not about mechanics. I don't like to bring up an excuse; I had a bad game. But anyone who was watching the game could tell something was wrong."
Tracy said he wants Jimenez to avoid trying to compensate for the pain by changing his thumb pressure or placement on the ball, which could quickly unravel his mechanics.
"There's every reason to think that he will (make his next start) if this thing can get to where it needs to be for him to be who he is," Tracy said. "But if not, and we need to back off for a start in order to give him five more days ... we'll make that decision at that time."
Jimenez dealt with the same injury last season and again at spring training early last month, although that cut was in a different spot. He said his cuticle cracked this time near the base of the nail and on the right side where it affects his grip while he was throwing during the Rockies' workout Thursday.
He blamed the return to a high altitude and Denver's dry air where skin loses its natural moisture.
Jimenez said he never considered going to Tracy and begging off his opening-day start, figuring he'd fight through it instead: "No way. I was like, 'I have to go out there and try to find a way to compete,'" he said. "It was kind of hard."
Jimenez, who won a club-record 19 games and threw the first no-hitter in franchise history last season, never had command of his usual repertoire of a half-dozen nasty pitches, and he tried to make do with a mixture of fastballs, but even those lacked his usual zip.
"I noticed it from my first at-bat," said Miguel Montero, who doubled and homered off Jimenez. "He threw me a couple of fastballs and I was like, 'Huh? That's kind of weird. I don't know, honestly, I don't think he was throwing that hard. I was like, 'OK, we've got to take advantage of this.'"
And they did, chasing him after six innings with a 6-3 lead.
If he's still hurting when the Rockies hit the road for the first time next week, Jimenez won't make his next start until the Rockies visit the New York Mets the following week.
"I'm not going to send a guy out there that consistently sits at 96 or 97 (mph) and ... the best you're going to be able to do is pitch at 92 or 93, as long as the leather or one of the seams doesn't hit it or tear it even further," Tracy said.