Is a new day dawning for Ubaldo Jimenez?

Last year, he was at or near the bottom of every pitching category among American League starters. This spring he has been on an upward curve virtually every time out.

Sunday, he gave up three runs, four hits and one walk in seven innings, as the Indians lost to the Chicago Cubs 4-3 at Goodyear Ballpark.

“The progression continues for him,’’ manager Terry Francona said. “He could have kept pitching but I wanted to get Cody [Allen] in the game. So Ubaldo finished up in the bullpen. He continues to build. He’s been working on his delivery, and the results are showing up.’’

One feature of Jimenez’s start was a sinker that produced nine ground-ball outs.

“Even if they square the ball up, it’s hard to keep the ball off the ground when he’s right,’’ Francona said. “He doesn’t have to pitch to the sides of the plate. If he’s down with his pitches, he’s going to have success.’’

The Tribe offense went quietly for most of the afternoon. Mike Aviles was the exception, delivering two singles and two RBI. Yan Gomes, who suffered a slight hamstring injury late last week, singled home the Indians’ final run in the ninth.

Dice-K sliced

The Indians have released Daisuke Matsuzaka from the contract he signed Feb. 18.

Last week the Tribe told Matsuzaka he would not win a berth in the rotation, but he agreed to go to the minors upon receiving a $100,000 retention bonus that bound him to the team until June 1. Otherwise he could have left March 26 and become a free agent.