CLEVELAND - Ubaldo Jimenez bounced back for the Indians this season. Now, he may bounce away.
The right-hander became a free agent on Friday after the club exercised his $8 million club option for next season and Jimenez voided it.
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After going 9-17 in 2012 and leading the AL in losses, Jimenez went 13-9 with a 3.30 ERA this season, including 4-0 in September. The 29-year-old was Cleveland's most consistent pitcher in the second half of the season, helping the Indians clinch their first playoff spot since 2007.
It was a remarkable turnaround by Jimenez, who had been mostly a disappointment since Cleveland acquired him from Colorado at the trading deadline in 2011.
The Indians can make him a $14.1 million qualifying offer by Monday, and he would have a week to accept. If he declines, the Indians would receive a 2014 first-round draft pick if he signs with another team.
Also, the Indians declined their $7.5 million club option on outfielder Jason Kubel. He was acquired from Arizona on Aug. 20.
Jimenez was at his best when the Indians needed him most. He went 6-5 with a 1.82 ERA after the All-Star break, but Jimenez turned it on in the final month of the season as the Indians closed in on a playoff berth. He posted a 1.09 ERA in six starts in September, leading AL pitchers in innings and strikeouts.
In his final start of the season at Minnesota, Jimenez matched a career-high with 13 strikeouts as the Indians clinched a wild-card berth.
After he struggled in April, Indians fans were ready to give up on Jimenez, who went 19-8 for the Rockies in 2010 but rarely showed that form during his first one-plus seasons in Cleveland.
But manager Terry Francona insisted upon sticking with him and pitching coach Mickey Callaway was able to get the most out of Jimenez. Jimenez was appreciative of the loyalty the Indians showed him, but it might not be enough to keep him around as he'll be one of the top free agent pitchers available.
During his season-ending exit interview, Jimenez told general manager Chris Antonetti he appreciated the confidence the Indians showed in him.
"Ubaldo was very complimentary of Tito (Francona) and his relationship with Mickey, and how much he valued his time here," Antonetti said.
Jimenez and Kubel joined relievers Matt Albers, Joe Smith and Rich Hill, starter Scott Kazmir and catcher Kelly Shoppach as free agents.