For essentially all of his professional career, Johan Oviedo has worked as a starting pitcher.
Since debuting in the St. Louis Cardinals’ minor league system as an 18-year-old in 2016, 101 out of his 106 appearance came as a starter.
For much of his career, it was all that Oviedo knew. That is until the 2022 season.
Oviedo made 14 appearances with the Cardinals big league club this last season, but only one of those was out of a starter. In fact, it was his first appearance of the year that was a start. The other 13 came as a reliever.
The move to the bullpen seemed to pay off for Oviedo, who posted a 2.66 ERA in 20.1 innings across his 13 relief appearances with the Redbirds.
Then at the trade deadline, Oviedo was traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates alongside corner-infield prospect Malcom Nunez for pitchers Jose Quintana and Chris Stratton.
From the get-go, it was clear the Pirates wanted to shift Oviedo back into a starting capacity and sent him to Triple-A Indianapolis to make the transition happen.
After a brief stint with Indianapolis, the Bucs called up Oviedo to make his first start in a Pirates’ uniform on Sept. 2.
It was a bit of a rocky road at first for the 6-foot-5 right-hander. In his first two outings, Oviedo wasn’t able to work more than three innings and issued eight free passes in just 4.2 innings.
Then, the big right-hander was able to find his command and delivered for the Pirates.
Over his final five starts to end the year, Oviedo went 2-1 with a 2.47 ERA/3.07 FIP. He only walked eight batters in 26 innings over that span.
In all, Oviedo went 2-2 with a 3.23 ERA/3.47 FIP in his seven Pirates’ starts.
“Amazing,” Oviedo said on his year with the Pirates after the trade. “All the work that we put in together — the coaches, the players, the staff… everything has been awesome and the whole experience has been unbelievable.”
Throughout his entire stint with the Pirates, Oviedo was difficult to square up. Opponents hit just .198 with a .547 OPS against. Oviedo was taken deep just one time while wearing a black and gold jersey.
Thanks to his success, albeit in a brief sample, Oviedo flashed what he is capable of and gives the Bucs an intriguing rotation piece heading into 2023 and beyond.
“I’ve always been a starter,” he said. “(Being a) starter is all I want to be. There’s nothing more special to me than being a starter.”
Baring something unforeseen, it appears as though three of the Pirates’ rotation spots for next year are already locked in.
Mitch Keller, Roansy Contreras and JT Brubaker all seemingly hold spots in the rotation, but Oviedo certainly is a candidate to join them.
“I don’t know what exactly the rotation is going to be next year but I’m really sure that we have the talent,” Oviedo said on the state of the rotation.
For now, Oviedo will get to reflect on a year that was filled with a little bit of everything.
The 24-year-old gives the Bucs another interesting young player, and Oviedo is pleased to be a part of the current Pirates’ group.
“I’m really glad that I’m here and have an opportunity to play for these guys,” he said. “Everyone is really excited and really happy for next year.”