Thursday Thoughts: Ubaldo “The Riddler” Jimenez

Jim Hunter interviews Buck Showalter with words underneath.

This is a weekly column that dives into some random thoughts about the Orioles/MLB. I used to do eight as a nod to Cal Ripken Jr. This year, I’ll be cutting it down to four or five, so consider it the Earl WeaverBrooks Robinson era of Thursday Thoughts. – A.S.

1. If you say you’re surprised by Ubaldo Jimenez’s sparkling 7 2/3 innings of two-hit ball last night in Cincinnati, I’d guess you haven’t been watching over the last three-plus years. The reason Jimenez is so frustrating is that everyone knows he’s capable of turning in that kind of performance, but he does it so infrequently. Perhaps the above image from MASNSports.com last night, while surely a simple mistake, also has a bit of truth to it.

Jimenez is the ultimate “question mark.” And sure, last night’s four walks weren’t ideal. He didn’t have swing-and-miss type of stuff. Some of the balls hit in the later innings were ripped and required some nice defense. But all in all, Jimenez was good last night. He’s easy to root for and even easier to rip. Just wait until his next start, when the roller coaster ride continues.

2. It’s felt like “opposite day” in Cincinnati so far as Jimenez pitched well and Kevin Gausman continued to do the opposite. The 26-year-old is 1-for-4 in “quality starts” this season, and two of them have been complete duds. I’ll give Gausman a slight pass for Opening Day, though he was clearly not at his best there either. One of the more shocking things Gausman has dealt with this season is his walks. He’s got 12 of them compared to 13 strikeouts. I tend to fully believe that Gausman is carrying some extra “burden” with Chris Tillman out. Perhaps it’s mental, or at least one can hope. Then again, can an ERA north of 7.00 and a WHIP over 2.00 really be all mental? There’s got to be something else going on there.

Listening to Gausman speak after this week’s start in Cincinnati, he seemed to know exactly what was wrong. The way he discussed the outing made me think there was something mechanically that he knows is fixable.

Honestly, if that’s not the case, the Orioles could be in for a world of trouble.

3. Gausman isn’t the only player that’s noticeably struggling right now for the Orioles. Manny Machado’s woes at the plate are still bordering on the “small sample size” territory, but they are at least worth discussing. Machado has just eight hits on the year, and four of them came in the first four games. He’s got just four in the last nine, and is batting just .170. Machado is still showing the ability to draw some walks, but expectations are obviously way higher for Machado.

It’d be nice to see him heat up and help this offense show the pop it is capable of. Machado is the straw that stirs that drink.

4. I know everyone’s excited about Trey Mancini’s start to the season, heck, even his career. It’s totally understandable. Even I enjoy watching his at-bats, believe me. But I also think it’s time we all pump the brakes just a tad on the Trey Train. Let’s just slow it down a bit and let it work around the first curve. Mancini is less than 20 games into his career and is being anointed by some as a savior. I think he’s more than earned his spot on this roster and will likely stay up the whole season, unless there’s a serious roster crunch at some point and a need to move a player out who actually has options.

But Mancini still has a lot to prove. Pitchers will eventually adjust to him, and he’ll have to prove that he can re-adjust to them. Perhaps just as importantly, Mancini has to prove he can play in the field. Obviously, he’s blocked at first base by Chris Davis, so these starts he’s seeing in the corner outfield spots are crucial. He hasn’t been seriously tested in any one game thus far, but it will come. When he is tested, he needs to pass.

5. The Orioles farm system is obviously thin, but there’s one name I’m getting more and more excited about as the days go by. It’s not Chance Sisco or Chris Lee, but Double-A Bowie’s Cedric Mullins officially has my attention. Mullins was named Eastern League Player of the Week recently and has been on an absolute tear to start the season. He’s just 22 years old, and pushing for a potential call-up at season’s end already.

This is a guy who could be in the outfield come next season if things break his way. He’s hitting for some power already as well after making the jump from Delmarva last season. He profiles as the prototypical leadoff hitter who could steal bases and be a nuisance at the top of the order for the Birds, something they are desperately missing.

In a farm system that leaves a lot to be desired, Mullins is a guy I’ve been genuinely excited about thus far.

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