When Osvaldo Bido made his major-league debut Wednesday night, it gave the Pittsburgh Pirates a rare duo.
Bido is the second pitcher in the Pirates’ starting rotation who was signed as an international free agent from Latin America but did not make his professional debut until he was at least 29 years old.
Bido was 21 when he pitched in his first game for the Pirates’ entry in the Dominican Summer League in 2017. Another native of the Dominican Republic, Ortiz was 20 when he debuted with rookie-level Bristol in 2019.
Amateur players from Latin America can begin signing with major-league organizations when they are 16. By the time they turn 18, most of the prospects are considered too old by front offices and scouts.
That is what makes the Pirates’ duo unique and almost unheard of. Yet the organization identified the potential of Bido and Ortiz at an advanced age.
Part of the kudos should go to current Pirates general manager Ben Cherington, farm director John Baker and the Pirates’ player development staff. They helped Bido and Ortiz make it to the big leagues.
However, the “old regime” deserves some credit, too. The Pirates found Bido and Ortiz when Neal Huntington was the GM.
It’s easy to cast aspersions at Huntington now, with the Pirates leading the National League Central four years after he was fired.
In truth, the Pirates needed a leadership change following an ugly 2019 season because things had gone stale. Huntington was usually angry and manager Clint Hurdle was beaten down by a bad mix of players and an ever-increasing reliance on analytics.
While the current Pirates bear the heavy stamp of Cherington’s work, they are also winning with the help of some of Huntington’s players.
It was Huntington who got Bryan Reynolds back from the San Francisco Giants in the highly unpopular trade for Andrew McCutchen just before the start of spring training in 2018. Reynolds has developed into an All-Star caliber player and Cherington had enough confidence to sign him to an eight-year, $106-million contract earlier this season, the largest in franchise history.
Huntington also traded with the Los Angeles Dodgers for shortstop Oneil Cruz, who has superstar potential despite currently being on the injured list with a broken left ankle. The Pirates got Cruz for left-handed reliever Tony Watson.
Third baseman Ke’Bryan Hayes and right-hander Mitch Keller were draft picks when Huntington was the GM.
Prior to Reynolds’ signing, Hayes’ eight-year, $70-million contract was the most lucrative in Pirates’ history. There is also a good chance that Keller will be locked into a long-term deal between now and the start of spring training next year.
Cherington also inherited two Huntington players in the farm system who are now key reserves. Middle infielder Rodolfo Castro was signed as a free agent from the Dominican and catcher Jason Delay was drafted.
Bido didn’t pitch great Wednesday night, but he also didn’t pitch badly.
He allowed only one run in four innings in a game the Pirates lost 10-6 to the Cubs at Wrigley Field in Chicago. It also took Bido 91 pitches to get 12 outs, which is a hard way to live as a big-league pitcher.
However, Bido made it to the major leagues and so did Ortiz against big odds. Huntington and his staff deserve some acknowledgment for that.