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Keep an eye on Rockies pitching, Barmes discussions could occur today

As MLB.com reported last week and as the Denver Post reported last night, the Rockies’ wide-ranging search for an innings-eating starting pitcher, or two, includes standout free-agent right-hander Roy Oswalt (4-0, 2.25 ERA in five career starts at Coors Field).

The Post reported that the Rockies won’t trade for the Astros’ Wandy Rodriguez, who want quite a bit in return. But just about any young, accomplished starter is on the radar — the Marlins’ Ricky Nolasco and Anibal Sanchez, and the Rays’ Jeff Neimann and Wade Davis. All have been Rockies targets before. The Rockies are interested in their one-time No. 1 pitcher Jeff Francis and Kevin Millwood, who finished last season in purple pinstripes, as well as, according to the Post, Paul Maholm.

The Rockies are dangling left fielder Seth Smith in trade talks for either a pitcher or a second baseman, or both. That helps explain the pursuit of Grady Sizemore, who is recovering from right knee surgery but, according to his agent, will be ready to start Spring Training and to start the season.

If they don’t make a trade at the keystone position, they could look to the past and pursue Clint Barmes, who played for the Astros last season but had spent all is previous seasons with the Rockies. Barry Meister, Barmes’ agent, will arrive at the MLB General Managers meetings in Milwaukee today. Although there have been internal discussions about Barmes — who is attractive to the Rockies because he can move to shortstop if Troy Tulowitzki needs a break or is banged up — there had not been negotiations as of yesterday. Barmes is receiving interest at a shortstop and a second baseman, and is open to playing each spot.

Potential trade targets are the Braves’ Martin Prado and the Padres’ Orlando Hudson, with the Rockies already having had discussions with the Braves.

In the coming weeks, watch for the Rockies to seriously explore dealing right-handed reliever Huston Street, who is guaranteed $8 million next year. Rafael Betancourt ended up supplanting Street as closer late in the regular season.

– Thomas Harding

Ubaldo dealt to Indians

SAN DIEGO — The Rockies have traded ace pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez, who has thrown the only no-hitter in club history and was the first pitcher to start an All-Star Game, to the Cleveland Indians for four prospects, although one — pitching prospect Drew Pomeranz — can not become official until next month.

The Rockies will immediately receive pitchers Alex White and Joe Gardner, and first baseman-outfielder Matt McBride. Pomeranz cannot be traded until next month because he was drafted last year, and Major League Baseball rules say a player cannot be traded until one year into his professional career.

The retooling Rockies would be receiving the Indians’ top picks in 2009 in White and 2010 in Pomeranz.

Word of the deal filtered into the public just before Jimenez started on Saturday against the Padres at PETCO Park. It did not go well. Taking the mound with right-hander Esmil Rogers warming up in the bullpen, Jimenez gave up four runs on two hits and four walks. He struck out two in a distracted, 45-pitch inning.

After a slow start during which he dealt with a torn thumb cuticle and hip flexor and groin issues, Jimenez has pitched well for 10 of his last 11 starts. Jimenez is 6-9 with the result of Saturday’s game pending, and with a 4.46 ERA. Last year, Jimenez threw a no-hitter on April 17 against the Braves, started the All-Star Game for the National League and finished 19-8 with a 2.88 ERA and set numerous club records.

The deal is considered a game-changer in the American League Central, where the Indians are battling the Tigers, who also were in the running for Jimenez. The Reds, Red Sox, Yankees and Blue Jays also were involved in talks with the Rockies.

Pomeranz, the fifth overall pick in 2010, was was 3-3 with a 1.98 ERA in 18 starts this season between Class A Kinston and Double-A Akron. Over 91 innings, the lefty struck out 112 and walked 38.

White, who was the Tribe’s top pick in the ’09 Draft, has been on the 60-day disabled list with a right middle finger injury. In three starts for Cleveland this year, he went 1-0 with a 3.60 ERA.

As the deal was nearing fruition, Pomeranz was scheduled to start for Arkon, and White was slated as the starter on Sunday for his first rehab assignment. Both were pulled before Saturday’s game started.

Gardner, a third-round pick in 2009, is 7-8 with a 4.99 ERA in 19 starts at Akron. Last year, Gardner went 12-6 with a 2.65 ERA at Class A Kinston and was a postseason Carolina League All-Star.

McBride, a supplemental pick in 2006, has hit .297 with 14 home runs and 53 RBIs at Akron, and hit .156 with one home run in 45 at-bats at Triple-A Columbus. Before moving to first base and outfield this year, McBride caught for much of his professional career.

Tigers, Indians stay active in Jimenez sweepstakes

SAN DIEGO — The willingness of the Tigers and Indians to discuss their most prized pitching prospects makes them the prime contenders to meet the Rockies’ price and pry right-handed pitching ace Ubaldo Jimenez from the Rockies.

According to reports, the Yankees also are making a big push, but those same reports also indicate the Yankees believe the Rockies will lower their asking price. But the Rockies themselves have not indicated to anyone that they will ask for less for Jimenez, their ace and a pitcher with a club-friendly contract. The names that are in play with the American League Central-leading Tigers and the Indians, second in the Central, suggest that they do not have to take less from the Yankees.

The Rockies appear to be asking for one of two members of the Tigers’ current starting rotation, either Rick Porcello or Max Scherzer, top pitching prospect Jacob Turner (called up for a spot-start Saturday against the Angels), and CBSSports.com reported Saturday that the Rockies also have inquired about the No. 2 hitter in the Tigers order, outfielder Brennan Boesch.

The Tigers were known to be looking for rotation help, and they acquired Mariners right-hander Doug Fister on Saturday morning for the back of the rotation. That would give them five starters, but if they put together a package for Jimenez they could theoretically send the Rockies Porcello or Scherzer and still have five.

The Indians emerged as a player during the week, and the Rockies have asked for their top pitching prospects, Drew Pomeranz and Alex White, or at least some combination involving one of the two. The phone lines are still open.

The latest reports seem to indicate the Red Sox are not prime players for Jimenez, although they did make calls to Colorado during the week.

Jimenez pitches against the Padres tonight at PETCO Park.

Jimenez is the talk of the deadline, but the Rockies appear to be more likely to move right-handed setup man Rafael Betancourt, who has shaken off a slump and is pitching well. The Angels, Twins, Rangers and Cardinals are among those who could be looking to the Rockies for relief help, according to the Denver Post. The Rockies have long coveted Twins right-handed pitcher Kevin Slowey.

The Rockies are more likely to move Betancourt than two younger relievers they like who have been mentioned in reports — Matt Lindstrom and Matt Belisle. Indications throughout the last couple of weeks have been that the Rockies definitely do not want to move Linstrom.

– Thomas Harding

Tigers, Tribe examine price tag on Rox’s Jimenez

SAN DIEGO — The Indians and the Tigers have emerged as the most aggressive teams in talks with the Rockies about their ace pitcher, Ubaldo Jimenez. Of course, the Rockies want to extract a price that thus far several teams have decided not to pay.

For a time this week the Reds were the most prominent rumor, but starting pitchers Homer Bailey and Travis Wood, and either top catching prospect Devin Mesoroco or 100 mph-plus mph lefty Aroldis Chapman was too rich a ransom for a team below .500. The Yankees and Red Sox have made inquiries, and how aggressively you believe depends on which tweet or report you trust most.

The latest report from Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal has the Tigers willing to include righty prospect Jacob Turner, with Major League pitchers Rick Porcello and Max Scherzer being mentioned as possibly heading to the Mountains. The Indians have talked about not being willing to mortgage the future. However, there are at least indications that two prized pitching prospects, lefty pitcher Drew Pomeranz (at Double-A Akron) and righty pitcher Alex White (at Triple-A Columbus, but headed to Akron on a rehab assignment for a right middle finger injury) are in play. The Indians will not deal prized prospects for rental players, but Jimenez would be under club control through 2014.

The Rockies have shown no inclination to come down on their high price of Major League pitching and a top-of-the-line young player or prospect.

Jimenez is set to pitch for the Rockies on Saturday against the Padres.

In other trade-related news, the Rockies have been willing to discuss everyone except shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, outfielder Carlos Gonzalez and first baseman Todd Helton. Right fielder Seth Smith, who has proven to be a solid gap-to-gap hitter against right-handed pitching, is drawing the interest of multiple teams. The Rockies also are expected to see if they can find a taker for onetime top Draft pick Ian Stewart, a third baseman having a woeful offensive year.

– Thomas Harding

The high price of Ubaldo

Rockies pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez has a club-friendly contract, some success under his belt and a nice fastball. That means the Rockies would require a lot to deal him.

The price has surfaced.

Word in the industry is the Rockies are requiring a high price from the Reds, with whom they’ve had talks. The Rockies require starting pitchers Travis Wood and Homer Bailey, plus one of two young stars — flame-throwing left-handed pitcher Aroldis Chapman or top catching prospect Devin Mesoraco, currently at Triple-A Louisville. The Rockies have made it known that they have no plans to lower their price.

Another name that has come up in talks between the teams is prized first base-outfield prospect Yonder Alonso, but the Reds called him up from Louisville on Tuesday after trading Jonny Gomes to the Nationals for two prospects, left-handed pitcher Chris Manno and outfielder-first baseman Bill Rhinehart.

The Denver Post reported that the Rockies have asked about Reds outfielder Chris Heisey.

In other news:

– The Red Sox and Yankees made inquires on Tuesday, mainly to stay updated on the situation. In addition, the New York Post and ESPN reported that the Blue Jays have expressed interest in Jimenez.

– Sports Illustrated and CSNNE.com each say the Red Sox have interest in backup outfielder Ryan Spilborghs, and the Boston Herald said the Red Sox have inquired about catcher Chris Iannetta and Jimenez, but not Spilborghs.

– The Rockies placed first baseman Jason Giambi on the 15-day disabled list Tuesday with a left quadriceps strain, which likely will mean he won’t be dealt before the Deadline. However, the Rockies could still deal him after the Deadline by having him pass through waivers. As long as Giambi is with his new team by Sept. 1, he will be eligible for the postseason roster.

– Thomas Harding

Giambi might have to leave to chase ring; Iannetta ignoring rumors

Jason Giambi loves Colorado, but realizes he might have to go elsewhere to chase his goal.

At 40, Giambi signed with the Rockies before the season hoping to win a World Series ring for the first time in his career. But with the team needing a major turnaround now, if not yesterday, to become relevant in the playoff race, general manager Dan O’Dowd recently met with Giambi and acknowledged that some prime playoff contenders have expressed interest in him. The Phillies and the Pirates are known to have expressed interest in Giambi to serve as a left-handed bat off the bench and a first baseman.

Even if he is not dealt before Sunday’s non-waiver Trade Deadline, he can be moved later in a waiver deal. As long as he is on the new team’s roster before Sept. 1, he will be eligible for the postseason roster. Although Giambi is under a regular one-year deal, because of his experience and the respect he has earned from the Rockies, he will be consulted before any trade occurs.

“I’m definitely in open communication with Dan, and I’m open to whatever,” Giambi said. “That’s part of this game. But I love it here. The Colorado fans have been incredible. The front office has been unbelievable. I love Jim Tracy and my teammates. It would definitely have to be the right situation.”

Giambi said he hasn’t thought about whether he’d prefer to continue his current role with a National League team or return to the American League, where he spent his entire career before joining the Rockies in 2009, as a designated hitter. He said the team would need to have a solid plan for days off for him if it is counting on him as part of the first base equation.

Also high on the list of Rockies players who could be moved is catcher Chris Iannetta. The Pirates, a contender, have surfaced as a possibility. The Padres, who aren’t contending but like Iannetta’s experience and ability to reach base, are another team believed to be interested. Iannetta is avoiding following the rumor mill.

“It’s counterproductive,” Iannetta said. “So I just avoid it all together and focus on what I can control.”

Rockies don’t mind Ubaldo pitching winter ball … if he’s still with them

Chances are if the Rockies end up receiving an offer they’ll accept for right-handed pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez, it’ll be close or at the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline. But if the Rockies aren’t blown away and they hold onto him, his preparation for 2011 will be different.

In an interview with the Associated Press on Thursday, Jimenez said he will pitch in the Dominican Winter League for Licey, something he has done for most of his career. The club has been asking some Latin American players to back away from winter ball in recent years, fearing it causes additional wear and tear.

But after Jimenez suffered a cut on his thumb cuticle in Spring Training and also battled leg muscle issues, then missed time early in the year with the cuticle injury, he has decided pitching in the winter actually reduces risk because he is more ready for the season.

“Yeah, for sure it got me ready. This year, when I got to spring training I was getting ready for the season,” Jimenez told the AP. “But a year before when I played winter ball I went to spring training already ready.”

Rockies general manager Dan O’Dowd told the AP: “Sounds like a great idea.”

How available is Jimenez, exactly? Jon Heyman of SI.com says via Twitter it’s a “Justin Upton-esque trial balloon.” During the offseason, D-backs general manager Kevin Towers said even Upton was available in a way of saying anything was on the table when it came to improving the club. Of course, the D-backs are a surprise National League West contender, and Upton is a key reason.

In another Trade Deadline-related story, foxsports.com reporter Ken Rosenthal reported on Twitter that teams are interested in backup first baseman and pinch-hitter Jason Giambi, but Giambi would like to stay with the Rockies. According to Rosenthal, the team will consult Giambi before making a deal.

Jimenez makes his case

Ubaldo Jimenez would prefer not to be traded. On Tuesday night he did everything he could to let the Rockies know he wants to stay.

After he struck out nine in 6 2/3 innings of the Rockies’ 12-3 victory over the Braves, he was asked in several different ways if he would do anything to stop the club from dealing him before the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline.

Well, he can do most anything on the mound. But when it comes to phone conversations between clubs, that’s where his power ends. He is not a general manager or an owner, and he doesn’t have a no-trade provision in his contract as leverage.

He was asked directly would he tell general manager Dan O’Dowd he doesn’t want to be traded.

“I think he already knows,” Jimenez said with an easy laugh. “But like I said before, they’re going to do anything that’s good for the team.”

While we’re on the good-for-the-team subject, something interesting has arisen during his last two starts. For much of this season, the team didn’t do much when he was on the mound. But in two starts after the break, the Rockies have scored 24 runs. Instead of not scoring runs for Jimenez, they’re not scoring runs for other guys.

What’s fueling all of this is the Rockies are not scoring runs and therefore not winning. To deal him, they’re going to have to get back a package of players who will correct the run problem. But they also need a bona fide starting pitcher. It’s not like there is an Ubaldo tree from which the club can pluck another Jimenez.

The question is whether the Rockies are better off letting Jimenez have his bad first two months of this season, and let the team have a bad year, or is the model so broken that they need to scrap it, even if it costs them a pitcher many said could not be developed by an organization that plays at altitude.

And besides pitching the way he has for nearly two months, Jimenez doesn’t have a say in the matter. Besides, if his pitching shows the Rockies how much they need him, it may encourage another team to make an offer the Rockies cant refuse.

He has two more starts — Sunday at Arizona and next July 30 at San Diego — before the deadline.

“I’ll just do what I’ve done the last five days,” Jimenez said. “Even before this game I had heard a lot of things. I got a lot of text messages, a lot of messages on Facebook asking, ‘Are you going to get traded? It’s the same thing. I’m going to keep doing my thing, keep working hard, showing up to the stadium and being myself.

“It’s a really tough situation. I’ll do anything possible not to think about it, but you’re a human being. Once in a while you’re going to think about it. So once the trade deadline passes, if I’m still here, I’m going to be happy about it. I won’t have to worry about that for a little bit.”

Rockies could be looking to deal, beyond Ubaldo Jimenez

The Rockies have established a high price for right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez, one that may scare off most teams. But there could be other deals on the horizon.

The Rockies are willing to deal struggling right-handed pitcher Aaron Cook, who is in the last stages of a $9.25 million salary for this season and has an $11 million option for 2012. But that’s been expected, especially with his struggles and those of the club.

But as the playoffs become a more remote possibility, information is surfacing that the Rockies could be willing to deal any of three key right-handed relievers — closer Huston Street (being paid $7.3 million this year, due for a $7.5 million salary next year and guaranteed a $500,000 buyout on a $9 million player option for 2013), Rafael Betancourt (being paid $4 million this year, $4 million next year and having a $250,000 buyout on a $4.25 million mutual option for 2013) and Matt Belisle (earning $2.35 million this year and $3.775 million next year). If they deal Street, the Rockies can go to righty Matt Lindstrom as closer.

–Thomas Harding

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