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Johan Oviedo Motivated as Ever Following Tommy John Surgery



Johan Oviedo, Pittsburgh Pirates

BRADENTON, Fla. — Not much more could be asked of Pittsburgh Pirates right-hander Johan Oviedo during the 2023 season.

It marked the first time as a major-league player that Oviedo spent a full season in the starting rotation.

At the time the Pirates acquired him from the St. Louis Cardinals in 2022, he was primarily being used as a relief pitcher at the big-league level. Once he joined the organization, the Pirates were adamant that he would be used as a starter.

It’s a good thing they were, because the Pirates had to really rely on him last season, especially so down the stretch with only two full-time members in the starting rotation at season’s end. Oviedo rewarded them for their faith.

He was tied for the team-lead with All-Star Mitch Keller with 32 starts. The 25-year-old finished the season 9-14 with a 4.31 ERA (103 ERA+). His 158 strikeouts in 177.2 innings both shattered his previous career-highs.

Oviedo shined the brightest on Aug. 28 against the Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium. That day, he pitched his first-career complete-game shutout. In the game, Kansas City recorded only two hits against him.

It seemed like Oviedo’s solid showing would carry over to 2024, when the Pirates would again have to rely on him as a key member of their starting rotation.

Instead, Oviedo will miss the entire season following Tommy John surgery from earlier in the winter.

The news came as a surprise to many. Sure, Oviedo had a larger-than-usual workload, but there were never any obvious signs that he was dealing with any type of injury.

Oviedo said he realized something was wrong not long after the season ended.

“About a week after I finished my season, the soreness and elbow pain wasn’t going away. I thought it was something because of the long season and a lot of innings. I was like, ‘Maybe something is going on.’ I wanted to give it a whole week to just rest thinking it would probably go away, but it wasn’t as easy as I thought. It ended up being this.”

The injury served as a detrimental blow to the Pirates and to Oviedo, who was hoping to build off of the momentum he had built heading into the offseason.

Tommy John surgery isn’t a typical procedure. The result is a long road to recovery. The initial word projected Oviedo would miss 12-14 months.

The good news for the big right-hander is that physically, he seems to be in a good spot.

“I feel great, my body feels good,” Oviedo said. “My recovery has been amazing. I’ve been working with a lot of really good people. Looking forward to getting back next year.”

While the coming months will be grueling for Oviedo as he works his way back to the mound, he isn’t letting the injury bring him down.

Oviedo, who turns 26 next month, still has so much of his career still ahead of him. While the pause button has been hit on that career, he knows he will be back.

“I still have a lot of things I want to come true. I haven’t even started what I want from my career. I still have a lot of hunger and desire for this game and definitely have the love for it. This is something that motivates me even more than before. It’s just a step back to get stronger and better for next year.”

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