Thursday, December 3, 2009

#11 - Ron Uviedo

Ronald Javier Uviedo was born on October 7th, 1986 in Calabozo, Venezuela. The young righty, a 6-1, 165 pound strike-throwing machine, is in his second year on the 40-man roster, even though he hasn't seen Altoona yet.

Uviedo began his career with Seattle when he signed as an 18-year old in 2004. He spent two years in the Venezuelan Summer League as Mariner property.

The young Latino was knocked around his first season, compiling a 2-1 record and 5.81 ERA. But he reversed course in 2005 as a starter, leading the staff in innings with 62, going deeper into games than any other pitcher on the club (5 innings+), and posting the lowest hit rate (6.1/9 innings) on the team.

He finished 4-3 with a 2.76 ERA and 52 strikeouts, but Seattle wasn't impressed, and let his contract lapse. The Pirates shanghaied him from the Ms and reconverted him to a reliever in 2006. Uviedo ended up 2-0 with 11 saves in the VSL, with a 2.02 ERA and 44 Ks in 35-2/3 innings.

The Pirates moved him to short season State College in 2007, where he was 2-0 with 12 saves and a 3.92 ERA. Uviedo kept getting swings and misses there, too, striking out 26 in 20-1/3 innings of work. He also got a cup of joe at Lynchburg early in the year and then Hickory towards the end of the season, where he wasn't overwhelming but wasn't overmatched, either.

The 23-year old spent most of the 2008 season with A Hickory, where he made 33 appearances and put together a 3-1 slate with 5 saves and a 3.01 ERA for the Crawdads. He struck out 76 in 71-2/3 innings, with a 5:1 K/BB ratio.

Uviedo finished the season at High A Lynchburg, making seven appearances and pitching lights out. He had an ERA of 2.25, and gave up 5 hits and 5 walks in 16 innings, striking out a dozen batters. Opponents hit .094 off him, and his WHIP was 0.63. A small sample, but a very good one.

Then he went back to Venezuela, pitching in the Winter League. Uviedo was 2-2 with a 3.10 ERA and 19 Ks in 20-1/3 innings in his home setting.

Uviedo spent the entire 2009 season in Lynchburg's rotation, part of the Pirates' approach of making sure the best arms are eating some innings while they develop.

He wasn't expected to do more than stretch his arm out, but ended up a decent starter. Uviedo had a 3.18 ERA, a 1.21 WHIP, a 7.7 K/9, a 4.5 K/BB, and an 0.8 HR/9 in his first 68 innings pitched with Lynchburg from April to mid-June.

Uviedo went down with shoulder tendinitis in mid-June, and missed about a month of action. He was clocked in his first two starts back, allowing seven runs in 9-1/3 innings pitched, obviously rusty and probably not physically ready for a starting gig yet.

He spent August piggybacking starts with Nathan Adcock, alternating between the first five innings and the last four innings of the game.

But once again, he moved into a his familiar closing role when R.J. Rodriguez left to join Puerto Rico’s national team in the World Cup of Baseball. In September, he notched three saves and a win in five appearances through the stretch and the Hillcats championship run, with one blown save.

The Pirates envision a young RHP that has a shot at being their closer in 2011-12. Uviedo throws a 94-95 heater with a sharp slider, and is always around the plate.

The good news about adding him to the rotation is that he got to work on developing a change-up, and he went to it often in 2009. It changed him from strictly a fly-ball/strikeout pitcher to a guy that developed an even grounder/fly split last season.

His one knock is that he's susceptible to the longball, but that's the M.O. of control pitchers. He has a serious knack for missing bats, a rare virtue in the Pirate system.

Uviedo should finally reach the Curve this season. They may plug him into the rotation, but his future is in the pen. His projection is as a back-end reliever, either closing or setting up.

(Next - #10 Donnie Veal)

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