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Ubaldo Jimenez wants to play winter ball

DENVER -- Colorado Rockies ace Ubaldo Jimenez wants to play winter ball again in hopes of strengthening his arm to avoid a repeat of the rocky start he had this season.

Jimenez told The Associated Press he hopes to play for the Dominican Republic's Licey Tigers, and the Rockies are on board with those plans.

"Sounds like a great idea," general manager Dan O'Dowd said Thursday.

Even a limited amount of time in winter ball, say four starts, would allow Jimenez to get a jump-start to working on his mechanics and allow him to get his arm ready for the spring.

Of course, Jimenez's winter league plans may all end up being a moot point as far as the Rockies are concerned if O'Dowd trades the 27-year-old right-hander.

O'Dowd is listening to offers but says he'll have to be overwhelmed to part with his best pitcher, who has six wins, tops in the NL, since June 1 after starting 0-5.

The Rockies have underperformed all season, turning them from prospective buyers into potential sellers as the July 31 trade deadline approaches.

Jimenez wants to stay in purple pinstripes and said his only focus is on continuing his winning ways. But he's already got an eye toward the offseason in hopes of avoiding the kind of speed bump in 2012 that put him and the Rockies into this pickle.

"That's one way to get my arm in shape," he said of playing winter ball in his native country, something he last did in 2009, before his best season in the majors, when he set a franchise record with 19 wins, threw the team's first no-hitter and started the All-Star Game for the NL.

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

Nagging hip and thumb injuries prevented Jimenez from getting strong enough last spring to overpower hitters with his high 90s fastball when the season started, and he went on the DL in April and then scuffled through a winless May before finally getting healthy and returning to form.

Since recording his first win June 1, Jimenez leads the NL with six victories and 66 1/3 innings pitched while ranking second with 63 strikeouts.