When the Pittsburgh Pirates return to LECOM Park for Grapefruit League action on Thursday afternoon, Johan Oviedo will have another opportunity to keep pushing for a starting rotation spot
There are now just 40 players remaining in the Pittsburgh Pirates major league camp. With exactly one week left until Opening Day, one battle that is still occurring in camp is for the final spot in the Pirate starting rotation.
This battle is between veteran free agent addition Vince Velasquez and young righty Johan Oviedo. While Velasquez appeared to enter the spring with a leg up on the competition for the final rotation spot he has struggled mightily. Additionally, Oviedo likely has little left to prove in the minors or coming out of the bullpen at this point.
Velasquez has posted an 8.00 ERA in 9.0 innings pitched in Grapefruit League action. He's allowed nine hits, two home runs, walked six batters, and struck out seven. Oviedo has struggled as well, posting a 5.06 ERA in 10.2 innings pitched to go with a 7:10 BB:K ratio, but there is a lot more growth to be had for Oviedo.
Thursday afternoon when the Pittsburgh Pirates host the Boston Red Sox Oviedo will get another opportunity to attempt to make a push for the final rotation spot. In seven starts with the Pirates last September he posted a 3.23 ERA, 3.47 FIP, 11.9% walk rate, and a 20.9% strikeout rate in 30.2 innings pitched.
The 25-year-old Oviedo has three plus pitches with his fastball, curveball, and slider. He also has room for growth as he has shown this spring with the addition of a power sinker. When you factor in Oviedo's much higher ceiling with Velasquez having pitched better out of the bullpen in his MLB career, and there is a strong argument to be made for Oviedo starting the season in the rotation.
Hopefully, Thursday afternoon will be the start of Oviedo finishing spring strong and forcing the team's hand.
First pitch from LECOM Park is scheduled for 1:05 PM ET. You can listen to the game on the Pirate Radio Network, and watch the game locally on AT&T SportsNet Pittsburgh. You can also watch and listen to the game on MLB.tv and the MLB At-Bat App.