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MIL@CLE: Ubaldo hurls 5 1/3 innings of two-run ball

Ubaldo Jimenez began his first full season with the Indians by holding the Blue Jays to two runs on one hit over seven innings on April 7, 2012. But Cleveland lost the game, and Jimenez wasn't able to build off that first outing, on his way to losing a league-high 17 games, with a 5.40 ERA.

After an offseason of mechanical tweaks, Jimenez again will open his season against Toronto, when he faces off against fellow right-hander Brandon Morrow on Wednesday night at Rogers Centre. Jimenez will be looking to secure a series win and put his 2012 struggles behind him.

"Last year, I felt lost. I didn't even know what to do when I got to the mound," Jimenez said. "I know I had a good game the first game, but I could say that was probably a lucky game. I didn't feel 100 percent."

Jimenez is 13-21 with a 5.32 ERA since coming to the Indians from the Rockies on July 30, 2011. Last season, he walked a career-high 4.8 batters per nine innings, posted a career-worst 1.61 WHIP and uncorked 16 wild pitches.

The Indians have worked with him to smooth out his delivery, improve his rhythm and increase his strike-throwing. But Jimenez is keeping his focus simple.

"I'm excited to be able to go out there and compete," Jimenez said. "I feel really good. I'm not worrying about mechanics or anything like that. I'm just worrying about getting outs."

Morrow will aim to shake off a 6.14 spring ERA as he tries to establish himself as a front-of-the-rotation pitcher. The 28-year-old went 10-7 with a 2.96 ERA last season, but injuries limited him to 21 games.

In three years as a full-time starter since coming to the Blue Jays, Morrow sports a 4.16 ERA, with 9.8 strikeouts but also 3.5 walks per nine innings. His focus this season is less on velocity and strikeouts and more on refining his offspeed pitches and location.

"I needed to make a change if I was going to take myself from a mid-four ERA to somebody that could go out there and give you a better chance to win every five days," Morrow said.

Indians: Pitching improvement paramount in '13
Expectations are high in Cleveland this year after the club added more than $30 million in payroll during an active offseason.

But even after the Indians posted the worst ERA in the American League a year ago, many of their big acquisitions -- such as Michael Bourn, Mark Reynolds and Nick Swisher -- came on the offensive side. That puts a lot of emphasis on the performance of the rotation's holdovers.

"Like they say, pitching and defense is everything," Jimenez said. "I know we have a good lineup, but as a pitcher, you have to go out there and compete and give the team a chance. If we don't have good pitching, we're not going to go anywhere."

• Speedy outfielder Ezequiel Carrera was claimed off waivers by the Phillies on Tuesday, while left-hander David Huff cleared waivers and was sent outright to Triple-A Columbus.

Blue Jays: Gibbons not shy about running game
Manager John Gibbons, beginning his second stint at the helm in Toronto, suggested on Tuesday that he plans to be aggressive on the bases when the situation calls for it.

"Depending on the game, we'll do those certain things," Gibbons said. "But we have some guys to steal some bases, if we can let them steal. Instead of taking a chance of hitting into an out, we have an extra out to work with, and we'll go that way."

The Blue Jays added plenty of speed this offseason with the acquisitions of Jose Reyes and Emilio Bonifacio. Reyes stole 40 bases last year and Bonifacio 30, despite playing in only 64 games.

• Reliever Sergio Santos believes that the Blue Jays' rotation -- featuring newcomers R.A. Dickey, Mark Buehrle and Josh Johnson -- will make life easy on the team's bullpen.

"I think we have some horses, some guys that can eat up some innings," Santos said. "The longer they go into games, the fresher we stay. Early on, if they go deep, then we stay fresh for the latter part of the season."

Worth noting
• In his only career start at Rogers Centre, Jimenez equaled a career high by allowing eight earned runs in 2 1/3 innings on July 14.

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