SAN DIEGO -- Right-handed pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez put on a familiar Rockies uniform Saturday afternoon, yet he knew he was headed into a bizarre trip into the unknown.
The Rockies reached an agreement to trade Jimenez to the Indians for what eventually will be four Minor Leaguers -- including two recent first-round Draft picks, pitchers Alex White (2009) and Drew Pomeranz (2010) -- before his scheduled start against the Padres. Pitcher Joe Gardner, a 2009 third-round pick, and first baseman-outfielder Matt McBride, who had spent much of his career as a catcher, will also come west in the deal.
Yet by game time at PETCO Park, the deal -- on the eve of Sunday's 2 p.m. MT non-waiver Trade Deadline -- wasn't official enough for Jimenez not to start. The deal is still pending Jimenez taking a physical for the Indians on Sunday. Pomeranz, because it's less than a calendar year since he signed his first pro contract, is the already-named "player to be named later."
So Jimenez, who had represented the Rockies since signing as a 16-year-old out of the Dominican Republic, threw one last distracted, 45-pitch first inning. He gave up four runs on two hits and four walks before hugs and handshakes greeted him in the dugout. No harm, no foul; the Rockies came back to beat the Padres, 10-6.
Still, it was a strange exit for Jimenez, 27, the only pitcher in Rockies history to throw a no-hitter or start an All-Star Game.
"To tell you the truth, I didn't even have my mind on baseball," Jimenez said. "I already knew before I got to warm up. It wasn't a secret. All my teammates, coaches, everybody knew. Even guys from the Minor Leagues called me: 'You got traded to Cleveland,' before I had to go outside.
"I couldn't get focused, and as you could see, I couldn't throw a strike."
Rockies manager Jim Tracy, whose voice broke after the game when discussing what Jimenez meant to him since he became manager in 2009, said the trade wasn't confirmed to him until shortly after the singing of the national anthem. By then Jimenez had warmed up. When Jimenez took the mound for the bottom of the first, his reliever, eventual winning pitcher Esmil Rogers, began to warm up.
As has been the case throughout Jimenez's time in the organization and with the club beginning with a brief, end-of-the-season cameo in 2006, he handled the trade with quiet dignity and a smile.
After Jimenez no-hit the Braves last April 17 and went 15-1 during the first half of last season, such a move was beyond unthinkable. He finished the year with a club record for wins, 19-8, and compiled a 2.88 ERA, with only a series of awful breaks separating him from the magic 20-win plateau. The second half was not as dominating as the first, but he was thought to be the pitching cornerstone of the franchise.
Then came this year.
He threw 96 mph in his first Spring Training start, but missed a start with a cut on his right thumb cuticle. He stayed quiet about strained muscles in his hip flexor and groin. He struggled on Opening Day, then spent time on the disabled list because the cuticle flared up again. Saturday's odd game left him 6-9 with a 4.46 ERA in 21 starts. Also, even with Saturday's victory, the Rockies are 10 games behind the National League West-leading Giants.
Reports of Jimenez's availability surfaced just before the All-Star break. By this week, the idea was quite thinkable to even Jimenez.
"I'm really happy that this is over," Jimenez said. "I was praying for them to do something, either they trade me or not. This is a hard part of baseball.
"I was ready for anything. I'm not shocked at all. This is part of baseball. This team [the Rockies] is going to do whatever is good for them. They're going to get good talent, and the other team is trying to get whatever it needs."
As the deadline neared, the Rockies made clear they would need a scintillating package of prospects and/or Major Leaguers to part with Jimenez. In the last several days, the Indians and Tigers began talking prized players, after the Reds balked at the Rockies' ransom and the Yankees, Red Sox and Blue Jays made varying degrees of progress but didn't come close to a deal.
The Indians met the Rockies' price.
One reason teams ponied up, or at least thought about it, was Jimenez's club-friendly contract. The trade voided a 2015 club option, but he is under the Indians' control through 2014 at a below-market total of $17.95 million. Jimenez is seen as a possible game-changer in the American League Central, where the Indians are second and chasing the first-place Tigers.
"They're in a really good position right now, battling for first place," Jimenez said. "That's what you want as a player, to go to a contender. It's not easy when you get traded, but if you get traded you want to go to a team like that."
The Indians are happy to have Jimenez.
"I think it's a lot to give up, but he's under control for two more years," Indians closer Chris Perez said. "He's a little nicked up I think, and Colorado's not the easiest place to start. When he's on, he's electric. Everybody saw that when they went to the World Series. It only helps us, I think.
"Obviously, we gave up a lot of talent, but you have to give up talent to get talent. Pomeranz has a lot of talent, but at the same time, he hasn't done anything up here yet. Maybe five years from now, we might be kicking ourselves. But you can't look five years from now."
The Rockies have added pitching prospects that could be a huge part of the club's future.
"This was a very difficult decision for us to make, but our focus with this deal was to make our team better in the very near future, and we feel like we were able to do that in this situation," Rockies general manager Dan O'Dowd said in the club's press release. "We believe the timing of this deal also allowed us to maximize the value we were able to get in return."
Pomeranz, 22, 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 turns 23 on Aug. 28, was the Tribe's top pick in the '09 Draft, and 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 to be the starter on Sunday for his first rehab assignment. Both were pulled before Saturday's game started.
Gardner, 23, 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, 26, 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. He started his career as a catcher, but injuries in 2008 forced him to move to first base and the outfield in 2009.
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Hardball in the Rockies, and follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.