Of Joe Torre's 40-plus seasons in the major leagues, the Dodgers' manager thought of only one pitcher who reminds him of Ubaldo Jimenez, the Rockies' shut-down right-hander who the Dodgers face Sunday.
"I guess Soto with Cincinnati," Torre said, speaking of Mario Soto, the Reds' fireballer who could throw a high-90s fastball and a back-breaking changeup that baffled hitters from the late '70s to the late '80s.
Jimenez, who is 6-0 and leads the majors with a 0.87 earned-run average, gained national fame from his no-hitter April 17 against Atlanta. But Torre said the 26-year-old Dominican Republic native's talent was news only to fans that hadn't paid attention.
He has been clocked at 101 mph on the gun, but he's versatile beyond the fastball, using his changeup, splitter and slider as "out" pitches because they carry a lot of movement.
"If he's commanding it," Torre said, "you'll have to make up your mind when you go up to hit — 'Which one of these things am I going to look for?' It's really tough as a hitter, especially when you have just the 60 feet to deal with, is to try to handle all the stuff."
As Torre said, it's not necessarily Jimenez' speed that kills, even though his fastball averaged 96.1 mph last year, tops in all of baseball, according to Baseball Info Solutions. "You can catch up with a fastball even if it's 97 mph if it's straight, but he doesn't throw many balls straight."
Blake continues to battle at the plate
Casey Blake knows that people know he hasn't been hitting well lately.
"It's no secret I hadn't felt good at the plate, but I was starting to have better at-bats with not a lot to show for it," Blake said.
Blake had batted two for 22 during the first seven games of the Dodgers' 10-game home stand, but against the Rockies on Friday, he came up with two key hits and two key defensive plays that helped seal the Dodgers' 6-5 win.
Torre said Blake, who entered Friday batting .263, has been swinging the bat with more intensity lately. He also said they're trying to monitor Blake's health.
"Every once in a while he'll get a little tired, and we try to keep track of that because he never tells you what hurts him anyway. You just have to guess," Torre said. "We're going to have to look at sitting him [Sunday] with a day game after a night game."
You haven't seen the last of Paul, Ely
Though outfielder Xavier Paul and pitcher John Ely were sent to the minors Friday to make room for Manny Ramirez and Jeff Weaver, who returned from the disabled list, both showed enough to warrant sooner-than-later return trips.
Paul hit .276 in the nine games since being called up to replace Ramirez, and led off the last two games for the Dodgers, both wins. "He gave us a spark," Torre said. "The kid doesn't have any fear."
Ely had just two starts, but in his last on Thursday threw 6 2/3 brilliant innings, retiring 16 straight batters at one point. "I'm sure we'll see him again," Torre said.
Those words seemed timely Saturday, especially after starter Charlie Haeger was pulled after giving up four runs in the first inning, and his replacement, Ramon Ortiz, gave up a two-run home run to the first batter he faced.
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