Change Is Nothing New To Juan Carlos Oviedo | The Process Report

Change Is Nothing New To Juan Carlos Oviedo

Tommy John surgery and a false identity wiped out two years of Leo Nunez’s career. Now pitching under his given name, Juan Carlos Oviedo, he has made a successful comeback to the major leagues with the Rays.

Tampa Bay signed Oviedo last winter knowing he had little-to-no chance of contributing in 2013. The plan was to oversee his recovery with an eye on a return to the field in 2014. After the “redshirt” season, the club re-signed the 32-year-old to a one-year deal this winter. Although health was not a new issue, he began this year on the disabled list as visa issues kept him in the Dominican Republic for most of March and voided the opportunity to build up the arm strength and endurance needed to start the season in the majors. After a few weeks in Triple-A Durham, Oviedo took the mound in a big league game for the first time since 2011 on April 24, 2014.

In regards to skill-set, it is clear to see why the Rays were attracted to Oviedo. A right-hander with the ability to throw a mid-90s fastball for strikes and a changeup that lunches up on the opposition is the cat’s meow around these parts. Despite the lengthy time in between major-league appearances, Oviedo has shown he remains the owner of both items.

Oviedo has made 13 appearances with Tampa Bay, spanning 14 2/3 innings. He has allowed nine hits (.170 average against) while striking out 15 and walking six. Striking out more batters than innings pitched is impressive, but perhaps even more notable is the six walks. Control and command typically take longer to manifest after surgery. And while Oviedo’s command is not pinpoint, his control – the ability to throw strikes – has been more than acceptable considering the circumstances.

From 2009-2011, Oviedo was a three-pitch reliever. He threw his fastball nearly 60 percent fo the time, the changeup another 30 percent and a slider that accounted for the difference. The fastball slash changeup combination was the attack of choice versus left-handed batters while the breaking ball picked up usage against right handers in lieu of the off-speed.

As a member of the Rays, Oviedo has embraced the organizational philosophy of throwing the changeup early and often. The slider, meanwhile, has been all but scrapped. In its place is more changeups; a lot more. Oviedo has thrown 236 pitches this season. According to ESPN Stats & Info, he has used his the off-speed pitch exactly as much as he has fastballs (114 a piece). The other eight tosses are credited to the slider. Of the 188 relief pitchers to throw 200 or more pitches this season, Oviedo is the only one to throw his changeup more than 40 percent of the time (48 percent). The pitcher behind him is also a newcomer to the Rays (Brad Boxberger 39.5 percent).

Without the slider against like-handed batters, Oviedo has bought into another team dogma: the same-sided changeup. In regards to right-handed relievers facing right-handed batters, his changeup usage (46 percent) is more 10 percent greater than the next reliever on the leaderboard. Once again it is Boxberger in second place (34.5 percent).

Perhaps no pitcher has undergone more alteration over the past few years than Oviedo: a new name, new ligament, new league and new team. Despite all of that, apparently even more change(up) is better for Juan Carlos Oviedo.

Data courtesy of ESPN Stats & Info.