PITTSBURGH — We’re starting to approach the one-year mark since the Pittsburgh Pirates acquired right-hander Johan Oviedo from the St. Louis Cardinals at last year’s trade deadline.
In the trade, the Pirates acquired Oviedo alongside prospect Malcom Nuñez for veteran pitchers Jose Quintana and Chris Stratton.
At the time of the deal, the Cardinals had been using Oviedo out of the bullpen after giving him an unsuccessful look in the starting rotation. In the bullpen role, Oviedo was pitching well, but the Pirates were adamant that they viewed the righty as a starting pitcher.
Every since he’s joined the Pirates. he’s been used exclusively as a starting pitcher. Even though he’s proven he is indeed a starter, even the Pirates have to be pleasantly surprised with the results Oviedo has had to date.
Oviedo again pitched well on the mound for Pittsburgh in their loss to the New York Mets on Saturday. He allowed only two runs on four hits across 6.1 innings and struck out five batters.
“He was good. Everything was working. He was really effective. He was in the zone. He was efficient. He did a really nice job. It was a well-pitched game for the first six innings on our end,” said manager Derek Shelton.
It’s been a reoccurring theme of late for Oviedo, who owns a 2.62 ERA over his last six starts dating back to May 12.
Those six starts come on the heels of a rough stretch in which Oviedo had a disastrous 12.08 ERA in three starts from Apr. 25-May 6. Since then, he’s looked like a brand new pitcher.
“It’s a long season. I try not to think about bad results. For me, today’s game still isn’t over in my mind, but tomorrow, it will be out of my mind,” he said. “That’s how I try to keep it — focus on the next game, on the next pitch, on the next batter.”
Part of the reason that Oviedo has looked like a different pitcher is because, technically, he is a different pitcher.
It was right around the time of his struggles that Oviedo implemented a sinker into his arsenal, a strategy that Mitch Keller used to turn around his career.
“The sinker helps a lot right now. I get people off my slider with the sinker. So, I have a lot of trust in my stuff. It gives me more confidence to pounding more of the zone and hopefully getting good results,” he said.
Oviedo is a passionate guy and it can be clearly seen when he steps between the white lines.
His passion combined with his ability to pitch makes him a special talent. He’s been better than I had anticipated at the time of the trade, and I don’t think I’m alone there.
With his outing on Saturday, Oviedo eclipsed 100 innings with the Pirates in 20 starts. In those 20 starts, the big-right hander has a 3.88 ERA.
“Every time that I’m going out there, I’m always going to give my 100 percent. This is the game I love and the game I’ve been playing my whole life.
“So, every time that I go out there, it doesn’t matter what the situation is or what’s going on around me. I’m always going to give my 100 percent of what I have and try to compete. I like to win. So, I’m always going to push as hard as I can.”
Oviedo has been a stabilizing force in a rotation this year that has been beat up. Oviedo’s upside offers even more than that, however.
The Pirates have to be happy with their return on investment.