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Demilio: The Pirates Should Use Luis Oviedo More Down the Stretch

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Take a look at Luis Oviedo’s numbers on the season and it’s not all pretty. In 26.2 inning, he carries a 9.45 ERA and has walked 24 batters. That’s not unexpected from the 22-year old Rule 5 pick who hadn’t pitched above A-ball before 2021. His 5.79 FIP, while not very good indicates he has pitched a little better than what is on the surface, largely in part to picking up 30 strikeouts in his 20 appearances on the season.

Since being activated off the injured list on July 23, Oviedo has made just eight appearances, but especially lately, he has been quite good. In his last six outings dating back to Aug. 6, Oviedo has worked seven innings, given up only three hits, walked five, picked up nine strikeouts and has only been scored on two times. A lot of the damage came in one outing against St. Louis where he surrendered both of those runs and walked four batters.

Oviedo was warming up in the bullpen in Tuesday’s game in the third inning, but Derek Shelton never made the call to put him in the game. With the lost season at hand and the fact that Oviedo is capable of becoming a future piece – whether working in the future as a reliver or starter means its time to use him more in the final three and a half weeks of the season.

No disrespect to guys like Shelby Miller or Anthony Banda, who have both been fine in the Pirates’ tenures, but Miller is a 30-year old free agent after the season and Banda has been a journeyman for his entire big league career. Kyle Keller, who is 28, is having arguably a worse season (6.84 ERA/7.37 FIP) than Oviedo depending on which metric you favor, yet has appeared in 14 games compared to Oviedo’s eight since Oviedo returned from his injury.

With just 23 games left on the Pirates’ schedule, it is time for Shelton and the rest of the Pirates’ coaching staff to start giving the ball to Oviedo more. He has shown he has good stuff with a fastball that sits in the mid-90s, and a couple off-speed pitches that have shown flashes that indicate they could be useful in getting batters out.

Considering where the Pirates are in the standings and how little time is left in the season, there’s no real reason to not be trying to get as many looks at Oviedo as possible against live hitting.

Since Oviedo’s Rule 5 requirements will not be in place moving forward and he will remain Pirates’ property, it will be interesting to see what they do with him moving forward, presumably in the minors. Will they use him as a starter as he had done for most of his professional career prior to joining the Pirates? Or do they like what they see out of him as a reliver more and go that route?

While that might be a discussion for another day, it is clear to me at this time that Oviedo should be being used out of the Pirates’ bullpen more and more in the home stretch.

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