ANAHEIM -- Lengthy pomp before Tuesday night's All-Star Game allowed Rockies pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez a rare treat for a starting pitcher at big events -- the opportunity to emerge from the dugout and enjoy fan applause. He would have plenty of time for warmup tosses in the National League's bullpen.
There wasn't enough time, however, for him to control his emotions. After forcing a fly ball from American League leadoff man Ichiro Suzuki, Jimenez walked Derek Jeter and yielded a Miguel Cabrera single.However, guys who begin a season 15-1 with a 2.20 ERA find a way. Jimenez forced Josh Hamilton into a double-play grounder to the mound and wound up throwing two scoreless innings with two hits, a strikeout and a walk in the NL's 3-1 victory. Jimenez, 26, who on average has the fastest fastball in the Majors among starters, fired eight of his 25 pitches at 98 mph. But when his first two were a pedestrian, for him, 94 and 95, it was clear he didn't quite have everything together for the first pitch. The way American League hitters fired at his strikes showed him that he needed to find his form. "I was trying to slow down, trying to relax," Jimenez said. "It was a challenge. I like to throw hard, especially in a game like this, with so many people in the stands, but I was able to control myself." The double play from Hamilton, a Rangers slugger, was early, but it proved important in a low-scoring game. "He's a really good hitter, a power hitter," Jimenez said. "So I had to execute my pitch. I got a ground ball." Jimenez was the first Rockies pitcher to start the Midsummer Classic. Colorado shortstop Troy Tulowitzki was also invited to the game, but he didn't play because of a fractured left wrist. The victory gave the NL home-field advantage for the World Series. With the Rockies tied with the Dodgers for second place in the NL West, two games behind the Padres, they are looking to benefit. Until then, the most special aspect of Tuesday night for Jimenez was being able to join his teammates along the first-base line after introductions. "It was really neat," he said. "It was an amazing time, just going through the line and shaking the other guys' hands. It was special." Jimenez has an extra day of All-Star honors. ESPN invited him to the Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles for Wednesday's ESPY Awards, which honor athletes for great moments and, well, just plain savoir faire. It's heady stuff for an athlete grounded enough to reserve this All-Star trip for his father, Ubaldo, mother, Ramona, his niece, all from the Dominican Republic, and the family that hosted him in the U.S. early in his career, when he was still learning the country and familiarizing himself with the language. Soon, he expects to get back to a more mundane but also more important duty -- trying to lead the Rockies to the postseason. "I don't change anything," Jimenez said. "I'm really happy about it but I always have my feet on the ground. I don't get too high. That's why they gave me an extra day, so I can put everything together and take my time. "My arm is going to be really fresh. I'll be ready to go." Tulowitzki, 25, saw the trip as a nice break from the monotony of rehab. He wore a stimulator device on the wrist to promote healing, and Rockies head athletic trainer Keith Dugger -- also representing the club in Anaheim -- forbade him from taking batting practice. "They didn't want me to swing here -- they thought with all the adrenaline going, I might swing extra hard, which is probably right," Tulowitzki said. "Be smart about it. It is an All-Star break. I might as well take this time to get healthy." Tulowitzki will join the Rockies on their 11-game road trip to Cincinnati, Florida and Philadelphia to take batting and fielding practice, and hopes to go on an injury-rehab assignment sooner than later. He puts his return to action at anywhere from two to five weeks, depending on how the bone heals and when he works past the expected tentativeness as he returns from an injury that occurred when he was hit by a pitch. But all those thoughts were far from Tulowitzki's mind Tuesday night. "Any time you're around players of this caliber, you soak it all in and enjoy it," he said. "I've talked to almost everybody on the team here and they're all good dudes. I see why they're some of the best in the game. They work hard, know what they're doing and care a lot. "I'd rather be playing, but at the same time it's a great experience just to get to be here around the best players in the game. Each and every year you want to make an All-Star Game. It means you've done good stuff for your team. There's probably a good chance, being a mid-market team like the Rockies, it means they're playing well and other people are taking notice. That means a lot, too."
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.