Jorge Dandys Julio Tapia, 31, the Venezuelan wild child, has signed on for another tour with Pittsburgh. Let's hope this one lasts longer than 2010's stint, when he was released before throwing a pitch.
Julio is the classic low-risk, high reward signing. Hey, he's not even being given an invite to camp, just a chance to resurrect his career at Indianapolis.
JJ spent the winter in Venezuela, where he had an 1.95 ERA with 22 strikeouts in 27 innings. In 2010, he pitched indy ball for the Bridgeport Bluefish and struck out 57 batters in 55 innings without allowing a home run, with a 1.15 ERA.
He's also a guy who's had some MLB success. Julio debuted in the show in 2001 with the Orioles. His first full season followed, and he went 5–6, posting a 1.99 ERA with 25 saves and 55 Ks in 68 innings, finishing third in the AL Rookie of the Year voting.
But he lost his job as the Orioles closer to B. J. Ryan at the end of 2004, and the roller coaster ride began.
After the 2005 campaign, Julio was sent to the Mets with John Maine for Kris Benson. Then he was traded to the Diamondbacks in May for Orlando Hernández. He replaced José Valverde as the Arizona closer, saved 15 games in 19 chances, and so gave the job back to Valverde in early September.
In 2007, he was traded to the Marlins for Yusmeiro Petit, and was their closer coming out of camp. Julio lost that job quickly enough, too, and was traded to the Rockies for Byung-Hyun Kim in May.
Did OK, too, in lower leverage situations, pitching as both a middle relief and a set-up guy for Colorado. He appeared in 58 games and posted an 0–3 record with a 3.93 ERA for the Rox.
Julio was a free agent in 2008, and he landed in Cleveland. Julio wasn't very good again, and was DFA'ed in May and released in June. He signed a minor league contract with the Braves, and as a September call-up, he won three games and posted a 0.73 ERA.
He then signed a one-year deal with the Milwaukee Brewers, but was released in June after compiling a 1-1 record and a 7.79 ERA.
Julio was signed by the Tampa Bay Rays, sent to AAA Durham Bulls, and released in August. He signed up for the Buccos in 2010, but was cut before the season started, and so it was off to Bridgeport.
His MLB line is 17-34 with a 4.43 ERA, which isn't too shabby. In 467 IP, he has 448 K and 223 BB. The first number makes him intriguing; the second makes him frustrating.
But through all his ups and downs, Julio could always bring it, and still can. He throws both a four-seam and a two-seam heater in the 95–100 MPH range and sometimes better. Julio also has a downward-breaking slider, which comes in at between 86-90 MPH, and a show-me changeup.
The guy is 31, a 6'1", 225 pound righty power pitcher who has worked for eight MLB teams, throws BBs and has 99 career saves. What's not to like about the deal? The Pirates love hard throwing relievers even if they are clueless as to the location of the plate, and Julio is one that just may have a touch of upside left.