The Orioles have finished batting practice and the Tigers are taking their turn in the cage.
Ubaldo Jimenez stopped to sign a few autographs before ducking inside the clubhouse. A brutal season has taken a turn upward for him, capped by his inclusion on the Division Series roster.
“I was wondering because I didn’t know what was going to happen,” he said. “I finished strong, but I didn’t know. I realize that all of the guys have been doing their jobs, so it was a tough call, but I was really happy to have the opportunity to be on the roster and I’m looking forward to doing my job.”
Jimenez made a mechanical adjustment in his delivery last month, lowering his hands and making it more compact. He allowed four runs in 10 innings in two September starts, getting the win in the division-clincher against the Blue Jays, and struck out three in a scoreless inning on Sunday at Rogers Centre.
“It’s meant a lot because right now I get to see the target real big and I’m minimizing the movement of my body,” he said. “I just see the target and I throw the ball right away instead of doing so much stuff before I throw the ball.”
Shortly after Jimenez signed his four-year, $50 million deal in spring training, the largest contract given to a free-agent pitcher from outside the organization, he talked about wanting to help bring a World Series to the city of Baltimore. He’s still got a shot at it - just in a different role than he imagined.
“It feels really good,” Jimenez said. “It’s amazing. I thank God for the opportunity.
“It’s not how you start, it’s how you end, and this is only the beginning of what we’re looking for. We’re trying to win a World Series. It doesn’t matter how you get it. You have to find a way to do your job.”
As the Orioles took batting practice, Game 2 starter Wei-Yin Chen met with reporters and answered questions through his interpreter.
On importance of postseason experience
“I don’t think it matters really that much. Of course, you have experience playing in the playoffs, you will know how the crowds would be and how the environment would be again, but still I keep doing the same thing as I was doing in the season, so it really doesn’t change that much for me.”
On whether pitching in postseason is still a big deal back in his homeland
“Well, back in 2012, I really didn’t pay attention to how big it is back in my homeland, but I heard something from media and from my families. And this year, of course, I don’t know how big it will be there, but still I hope they will enjoy all the major league games and we will get more fans out of Taiwan.”
On what’s the No. 1 question asked about the Orioles back home
“Well, before I came here, the Orioles haven’t been in playoff for a certain amount of time, so some people would ask me, ‘Are you guys going to be in the playoffs?’ And I said, ‘I don’t know.’ But as a player, of course, we want to be in playoffs, so I will play my (butt) off to try to get us there.”
On what’s been the biggest key to his season
“I think we just have a great team here, and we also have a lot of great new acquisitions like Ubaldo, Nelson (Cruz) and Delmon (Young), and they are doing great in the season. Because we have a great lineup, as a pitcher I don’t worry about too much. I focus on my part of the game. I’m just trying to get hitters out. That’s all I’m trying to do out there. So, I think we have a really great team out here.”
On how he’ll combat the enormity of Friday’s start
“Well, I think tomorrow when I get up to the mound, I will be all sweating and nervous, just like I am now. But still, as Buck (Showalter) said, we should try to stay calm and do whatever we did in the season, whatever you did to get you here. So, I will just try to stay calm and focus on my part again. Try to get hitters out and not thinking about too much things. I don’t want to think about anything that I wouldn’t do in the season and that’s how I’m trying to stay focused.
On challenge of facing Tigers lineup that feasts on left-handed pitching
“I’ve been watching some videos of the Tigers’ hitters and, yes, they do have a lot of great right‑handed hitters. So at first, when I think about it, I thought maybe I should be, like, extra careful with them. But after that, I think, well, we’re a good team, too. So, I think I will just try to focus on my part again and try to get them out, because it’s baseball. The game is not ended until it ends, so as long as I do well, I think I have the chance to get them out, so I don’t want to think about that too much.”
On challenges of not having Matt Wieters behind the plate and working with new pitching coach
“Yes, of course it was a challenge at first, because Matt Wieters is a great catcher. He knows the major league hitters so well. In the past, I was following his lead to pitch my game, and now when he got injured, I have to try to learn about how to think about what I’m going to throw, where I’m going to throw. So, during the course of the season, I have learned a lot because I have to do my homework by myself. And also with the new pitching coach, Dave (Wallace), he has been working with other Asian pitchers, also, so he knows about how much we throw back in Asia.
“He told me I should have a plan, how to get through the season and don’t tire yourself. You’ve got to keep something for you until September and October. So, with this season I think I learned a lot from him. And also by doing my homework by myself, I also learned a lot.”