NEW YORK -- Ubaldo Jimenez started the second game of the 2007 World Series as a rookie. Two years ago, he threw a no-hitter, started the All-Star Game for the National League and posted one of the best first halves of any pitcher in modern Major League Baseball history. He now pitches for a contender in Cleveland, wearing stirrups with pant bottoms high in tribute to Chipper Jones, whom he idolized as a boy in the Dominican Republic watching TBS.
But who knew Ubaldo could play the drums?
"I guess nobody asked me before," the Indians right-hander said after jumping up on the MLB Fan Cave music stage and performing an impromptu drum solo for the seven Cave Dwellers before they broke out in applause. "When I was growing up in the Dominican, we always played on the drums, just for fun. I do my best."
"He's got some rhythm. Don't let him fool you," said teammate Jason Kipnis, who accompanied him to the MLB playland in Greenwich Village.
"We call it a tambora," Jimenez said. Motioning to the drum set, he added: "Pretty much like the big drum here, but you put it sideways."
The tambora is a two-headed drum played in merengue music, often made from salvaged rum barrels. Someone should immediately notify John Adams, the Indians fan who has played the drum at the team's home games since 1973. There is a new tamborero in town, and he has won seven games and hopes to beat a postseason drum again in 2012.
"It's fun when you play for a contending team," said Jimenez, who will start opposite Andy Pettitte in Wednesday's finale of the Indians' series at Yankee Stadium -- where he is set to surpass the career 1,000-inning mark with one out in the second inning that day.
"This team, we have a lot of talent in the clubhouse. The thing with this team, everybody plays together. Everybody plays for the same cause, and that's winning every single night. Those guys in the clubhouse are great."
One of them, Kipnis, said baseball fans have not seen the real Indians yet in 2012. Cleveland enters the week a half-game behind the White Sox atop the American League Central standings. The Tribe is in the middle of a trip that started with three games in Houston and finishes with four in Baltimore, before returning for a final homestand that leads into the All-Star break.
"You can ask anyone in our clubhouse -- we have not even played that great of baseball yet, definitely not to where we're capable of," Kipnis said. "So to be in the thick of things and be in the position where we are -- without even playing the full game of baseball where your offense is clicking, your defense and your pitching is all going -- we're happy about that."
After Jimenez finished his drum solo, it should not be surprising that Kipnis was asked to sing some Adele. He abstained, but it now goes with the territory, ever since he agreed to wear a microphone during the MLB Network's historic wired-access Spring Training game, when he sang "Someone Like You" between pitches against the D-backs.
"I go to away games or in Cleveland and there will be people down the sidelines screaming for me to sing Adele," Kipnis said. "For some reason, I still respond to it, and I still turn around like they are talking to me. It's fun. It's something I like to do, to sing during games and keep myself occupied. But when you're mic'd up, you've got to remember that you're mic'd up and watch what you are saying or singing. It's stuck with me. But I don't mind too much."
Kipnis wouldn't mind going to Kansas City twice next month, either. He will be there when the Indians start a series at Kauffman Stadium on July 31. The question is whether he will be there when the 83rd All-Star Game is played on July 10.
With Robinson Cano of the Yankees and Ian Kinsler of the Rangers battling for that fan vote to start at second for the AL, a good case can be made for Kipnis to be added as a reserve. He has stolen 17 bases in 18 attempts and is projected at more than 100 runs and nearly 100 RBIs.
"It would be a tremendous honor to represent Cleveland at the All-Star Game," Kipnis said. "Most players, that's one of their goals, to have a game like that. But there are tons of great players out there, and many deserving guys having great years so far. So if it happens, it happens, it would be great. But if it doesn't, it's not the end of the world."
Kipnis grew up a fan of Ken Griffey Jr., saying he loved "the way he played the game ... like a kid, smiling everywhere." If he was going to make it to the Majors, Kipnis was going to need to switch from the outfield along the way.
"At first, I wasn't the biggest fan of it," he said. "When someone tells you that you've got to change your entire perspective on the game of baseball and go from the outfield to the infield, it's not something you're eager to do right away. But once I thought about that, this might be my ticket up, you're almost like, 'I'd rather be uncomfortable in the big leagues than comfortable down in Double-A.'
"Once I laid it out like that, I kind of got to work and took loads of ground balls until it became routine for me. It's still a work in progress, but it's something I'm going to be more comfortable with as more games come along."
Now Kipnis said he would love to help give Indians fans a World Series they last experienced in 1997. Cleveland has the longest title drought in baseball other than the Cubs, dating back to '48. Maybe the team could even bring a tambora to Progressive Field and have Jimenez do a little jam with Adams, some pennant-chase percussion.
"They're very loyal fans in Cleveland," Kipnis said. "Everybody knows how they were in the '90s with all the sellouts. We catch glimpses of it here and there, when we get those bigger crowds. They can get loud. It's a fun place to play when people show up."