Return To Form Providing Rays Closer Option
Juan Carlos Oviedo is slowly returning to the form that he had when pitching for the Kansas City Royals (2005-2008) and the Miami Marlins (2007-2009) under the name Leo Nunez.
In December 2011 he was arrested in the Dominican Republic for using the identity of childhood friend Leo Nunez. Charges for falsifying the documents (immigration papers, etc.) were not filed against him by the authorities as he was cooperating with their investigation into the man providing the false documents.
He was placed on Major League Baseballs restricted list and wasn’t able to get back to the US until May 26th of 2012 and upon arriving was handed an eight week suspension by MLB Commissioner Bud Selig.
While preparing to return to the Marlins he felt discomfort in his elbow which eventually Tommy John Surgery which ended his chances of playing in 2012 and would also take away his 2013 season.
Despite the injury the Rays signed him following the 2012 season in hopes that he would be able to come back and help them in the second half of the season. In the event that he pitched well they would be able to retain him for 2014 season as the contract contained a club option. His rehabilitation did not go as rapidly as he or the Rays would have liked and he was unable to make it back.
After the season the two sides appeared to have severed ties when the Rays declined to pick up his 2014 option and allowed him to hit the market as a free agent. In a somewhat surprising move Oviedo and the Rays reached agreement on a 1-year deal worth $1.5 million contract that can be worth as much as $2.9 million with incentives.
Finally healthy and ready to contribute he had to wait once again, this time until mid-March, to join his teammates in Port Charlotte due to Visa issues while attempting to leave the Dominican. Unable to properly ramp up his workload under the watchful eye of pitching coach Jim Hickey, trainer Ron Porterfield, and manager Joe Maddon he was forced to open the season on the disabled list.
After starting the season pitching for the Rays Triple-A affiliate Durham Bulls he joined the Rays on April 20th and finally appeared in a game on April 24th.
He was scoreless over his first three appearances but the first time the team asked him to pitch in back to back games he was roughed up by the Boston Red Sox allowing three earned runs on four hits in just 0.2-innings.
The runs given up by Oviedo at the end of April were the last and only runs Oviedo has given up. In the month of May he has appeared in nine games delivering 10.2 scoreless innings allowing three hits striking out ten while walking three.
At one point during his current scoreless streak he retired 21 straight batters, has an ERA of just 1.84 (3ER/13.2IP), and has held the opposition scoreless in 12 of his 13 outings
With Grant Balfour struggling as the teams closer the Rays may at some point consider giving Oviedo some opportunities to close. A role he is not unfamiliar with as he did save 92 games as a member of the Miami Marlins from 2009 to 2011. The move may not be permanent as he is probably more valuable working to bridge the game to the closer but maybe the move will be made to allow Balfour steady work to get straightened out.
As for now the Rays have a luxury of having an experienced arm with the ability to work high leverage situation in the most important sixth through eighth innings – which gives Joe Maddon many more options than just waiting for a game with a lead to hand the ball over to him.