Jimenez faces a daunting task on Thursday night: a rookie trying to contain a Red Sox offensive juggernaut that has scored 43 runs in its last four games. But in his last three starts -- two in the postseason -- he hasn't pitched like a rookie, allowing just three earned runs over 17 2/3 innings.
"He's very relaxed," Francis said of Jimenez, the Dominican Republic product who showed poise and toughness against Philadelphia and Arizona in his two playoff starts. "Obviously, he's got dominant stuff when he's on."He's probably done more than we've expected of him in such a short time. He's turned into a dominant Major League pitcher." A quick study with only 15 regular-season starts, Jimenez could see from Francis' struggles the need to throw strikes in good locations and keep the ball down, out of harm's way. "That's the focus of any pitcher, to keep guys off-balance and get them to hit it softly on the ground," Francis said. "He can get the job done." Jimenez's cool countenance was apparent when he was asked about the challenge of facing countrymen David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez in the heart of the Boston lineup. "I know it has to come, so I just let it come," Jimenez said. "I'm not worried about it. I'm going to go out there and face everybody like it's the same, just throw strikes and go after them." Ask him about the perils of Fenway Park, made evident by the Red Sox accumulating 17 hits (including a Series record-tying eight doubles) in Game 1, and Jimenez smiles. "I've never pitched here before," he said. "I just heard it's a fun place to pitch, so I don't feel any pressure. I'm just really excited about it. "It's so nice to be here, because there's a lot of history here in this stadium. Like when we came here [Tuesday], the first thing I did was go out there and just go, `Wow, it's amazing.' Just imagine it being full of people out there." As always, Jimenez will follow the lead of his catcher, Torrealba, a man he respects completely.
"He's the biggest key for our success, for every pitcher," the 6-foot-4 right-hander said. "Because he's like the guy. He'll tell you everything you have to do."Jimenez has a big arm to go with considerable charm. His fastball consistently finds the high 90s on radar guns, and he has a big-bending breaking ball to go with it. When he's working quickly and decisively, hitting his spots, keeping his defenders alert and in tune, the big kid is a handful. Jimenez has been a factor in the Rockies' remarkable run to and through October, filling a vital role in manager Clint Hurdle's rotation in the second half. "That stuff will be electric," Hurdle said. "That's the kind of stuff that every once in a while, you step back and you go, `Wow -- that's special.' He's shown some special poise for a young pitcher." If success truly breeds confidence, Jimenez has every right to take a good feeling to the mound against Red Sox Game 2 starter Curt Schilling, a man who launched his Major League career when Jimenez was 4 years old. After going 4-4 with a 4.28 ERA in those 15 regular-season starts -- he yielded more than three earned runs only once, against the Dodgers on Sept. 25 -- Jimenez has flourished in October.
|"That stuff will be electric. That's the kind of stuff that every once in a while, you step back and you go, `Wow -- that's special.' He's shown some special poise for a young pitcher."|
|-- Rockies manager Clint Hurdle|
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less