When Major League Baseball holds its All-Star game on Tuesday night in Anaheim, Calif., 26-year-old right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez of the Colorado Rockies will be on the pitcher's mound for the National League.
Jimenez has gotten a lot of attention this year because of his impressive statistics. So far he has 15 wins and 1 loss. That's just two wins short of tying the Rockies' season record, and the season is only half over.
Then there's his earned run average, which measures how stingy a pitcher is when it comes to letting the opposing team score.
"In baseball, an ERA of around 3.00 is considered great," says national baseball writer Troy Renck of the Denver Post. "He had an ERA under 1.00 until the middle of June."
So dominating was Jimenez that for the first two months of the season, no team managed to load the bases against him -- an every-game occurrence for most pitchers.
Jimenez has had a few hiccups since then, and his ERA stands at 2.20 -- still impressive.
"He's capable in the next four or five years of being the best pitcher in the league," Renck says.
Jimenez is racking up the "firsts," too -- the first Rockies pitcher to be picked as starter for an All-Star team; and the first to pitch a no-hitter, against the Atlanta Braves in April.
"You're talking about the kind of pitcher who's going out there commanding the game, sort of like Nolan Ryan used to do," says fellow Rockies pitcher Aaron Cook. "Nolan Ryan is a great Hall of Famer, and I don't like to throw his name around lightly, but the kind of stuff that Jimenez is doing -- if he could do that for 20-plus years like Nolan Ryan did, I think you could definitely see him in the Hall of Fame."
Last Saturday fans lined up around Coors Field in Denver to have their pictures taken with Jimenez and other players. Many say they've watched proudly as he has matured as a pitcher since arriving in Denver in 2006.
"This year he seems to be more relaxed -- his face is more relaxed," says Teresa Ramirez of Denver, Colo. "I think that he's starting to feel comfortable in his skin and in the idea this is where he's supposed to be."
Rockies fans are used to rooting for their underdog team, but Jimenez, who grew up in the Dominican Republic, is sparking optimism.
"We're hoping he stays with us -- retires with us and not get traded ever," says Julie Gabaldon of Denver.
With all the attention Jimenez is receiving, you might expect him to get superstitious or stick to a pre-game ritual. But when asked about that, his answer is -- like the man -- simple and straightforward.
"Well, the day before, I turn off my phone so I don't talk to anyone," Jimenez says with a laugh.
He says he doesn't want any negative thoughts entering his head as he goes to sleep the night before a game. And the All-Star game is a big one for him that he says he feels honored to participate in.