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Johan Oviedo Forming Tight Relationship With Fellow Countryman



Aroldis Chapman, Pittsburgh Pirates, Johan Oviedo

Johan Oviedo was often absent from his locker at Pittsburgh Pirates spring training in Bradenton, Fla.

No, it’s not because the soon-to-be 26-year-old is out for the year after undergoing Tommy John surgery in the offseason. Though he wont be throwing any bullpens, Oviedo is still at Pirate City with his teammates this spring.

It’s because Oviedo is seemingly attached at the hip with new Pirates’ relief pitcher Aroldis Chapman. The two spent a lot of time together during the first week of spring training.

“He’s a great guy to have around for me,” said Oviedo. “He’s one of our idols in Cuba and it’s really a pleasure to just share time with him and learn everything he has to share. Then also realizing that he’s a better human being. That’s one of the reasons I really like hanging out with him.”

There’s no hiding how quickly the two players have formed a friendship despite only having known each other for a short period of time.

It seems that no matter where you would look, wherever Chapman goes, Oviedo follows.

“I walked into the training room at 6:30 and both of them were already in there,” Pirates manager Derek Shelton said. “I think it’s really important to develop that relationship because, obviously, they are from the same country, but more importantly they’re big human beings and being able to develop that relationship should benefit [Oviedo].”

Chapman and Oviedo have a lot in common. Both players were born in Cuba, Oviedo in La Habana and Chapman in Holguin. They were born almost exactly 10 years apart, Chapman on Feb. 28, 1988 and Oviedo on Mar. 2 a decade later.

Both guys look like they could play in the National Football League, too. Oviedo stands 6-foot-5 and weighs 245 pounds. Chapman checks in at 6-foot-4 and 235 pounds. If it wasn’t already clear by looking at them, they spend a ton of time in the weight room.

“One thing we know about [Chapman[ is how hard he works and [Oviedo] is in that bucket, too,” said Shetlon. “In the weight room, you can even watch the way he has attacked his offseason program, even with his Tommy John.”

When news broke that the Pirates were bringing in Chapman as a free agent for the 2024 season, Johan Oviedo was thrilled.

Though he won’t get to see Chapman closing out a game he started, being teammates with an established veteran will pay dividends for Oviedo.

“I was really happy about that news,” Oviedo said on the Pirates landing Chapman. “Even though I won’t share time on the field with him, just to have him around me is a blessing.”

Chapman certainly has plenty of experience and perspective during his time as a major-leaguer. His on-field résumé is as impressive as any current relief pitcher in baseball.

In his career, Chapman was named the winner of the Mariano Rivera Award, has been to seven All-Star games, is a two-time World Series Champion and is third amongst active players with 321 saves.

He was also suspended 30 games by Major League Baseball in 2016 under the Joint Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault and Child Abuse policy.

Shortly after signing with the Pirates, Chapman spoke with members of the media and said he has learned from his mistake. It was an ugly incident, but Chapman is trying to do his part to make sure it isn’t duplicated.

“I would say that I feel like I’m a different person now. I’m a better person than I was. That was an incident that was in the past and I dealt with that with MLB and I was punished for it. I did receive help after that, speaking with someone and working through that.

“It’s something that when I get a chance to work with younger players, it’s something I share so it’s hopefully something they don’t make the same mistakes and they can learn from that experience, which I have.”

Through all that has transpired in his career, both the good and the bad, Chapman has become a veteran presence for younger players to rely on.

Johan Oviedo is going to soak in as much as he can from one of his heroes, even if it’s only for a year.

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