Rockies' Jimenez remains humble despite no-hitter

By Steve Ginsburg

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Several days after carving up the Atlanta Braves with the season's first no-hitter, Colorado Rockies right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez remains uneasy about his status as the team's primary player.

"For me, what's important is to be out there for my team," the soft-spoken Jimenez told Reuters on Monday. "We're one of the most talented teams in the National League.

"I'm just a piece of it. We have a lot of good players in the starting rotation, the bullpen, everywhere. We have a really good chance this year."

The Dominican-born, 26-year-old Jimenez unleashed his dominating fastball against the Braves on Saturday, walking six and striking out seven in a 4-0 masterpiece of 128 pitches.

It was the first no-hitter in the 18-year existence of the Rockies and improved his record to 3-0 this season with a scant 1.29 ERA.

While Jimenez played down his value to the Rockies, manager Jim Tracy called him "one of the creams of the crop" and the key to the team's chances of winning the NL West.

"I saw this last year and I still think there are more steps that he can take," he said. "This man is so in control of himself and understands just who he is and what it is that he has to do.

"Rest assured when I tell you he's really hard to hit. Ask anyone who walks up there with a bat in his hand."

Jimenez has won 11 games since August 1, tied with Yankees southpaw CC Sabathia for the most in the majors during that span. He has become a national hero in his homeland.

"I heard all of the people there went crazy," Jimenez said in the Rockies' clubhouse before their game against the Washington Nationals. "They went nuts.

"They were dancing in the street and everyone was talking about it, jumping around. Crazy."

Jimenez became the fourth Dominican player to throw a no-hitter, the most by any country other than the United States.

"It's something that every pitcher dreams about. 'Will I ever throw a no-hitter?'" he said. "It's always in the back of your mind as a pitcher. Throwing one was one of the most wonderful moments of my life."

He showed the backbone of a veteran in the ninth inning against the Braves, not someone who has played in just 87 games during a five-year major league career, and was launching his fastball into the mid- to upper 90s throughout the game.

"When you're throwing a no-hitter, you don't feel anything," he said. "You're so excited and motivated you just want to keep going.

"I just put the nerves out of my mind in the ninth inning. I was going after them, whether or not they got a base-hit. Whatever happens was going to happen."

Jimenez laughed when asked about his chances of tossing another no-hitter when he faces the Nationals on Thursday.

Johnny Vander Meer is the only pitcher to hurl consecutive no-hitters, and he did it 72 years ago.

"I'm not even thinking about that," he said. "A no-hitter happens probably once in your career. The next time I'm just going to try and win the game."

(Editing by Greg Stutchbury)