In March of last year, the Cubs signed 26 year-old Cuban right-hander Armando Rivero to a $3.1 million contract. Since then, he has been having success in the minor leagues. As far as he has progressed, it may be time for the Cubs to bring him up to the majors.
After a slow start with the Class-A Kane County Cougars (predictable since he was still trying to get adjusted to a new life in a new country), he settled down and had a 13.4 strikeout per nine innings-ratio.
Being used exclusively as a closer with the Tennessee Smokies this season, Rivero has truly shined. In eight games with the Smokies he has pitched 12.1 innings, recording four saves. He has a WHIP of 0.730, and his SO/9 innings ratio is up to 14.6.
After Pedro Stop and Jose Veras struggled as closers, the Cubs are in dire need of a late-inning stopper. They are last in the league in saves with just two, and they have four blown saves.
The Cubs have another hard throwing pitcher who can challenge for the closer’s job in Arodys Vizcaino, but the Cubs reportedly are looking for him to be a starter rather than reliever.
Don’t expect Rivero to come up to the major league squad until June at the earliest. The free agency clock starts this season if he is brought up before then, but does not start until next season if they wait a month or two.
Remember again, that Rivero is 26 years old so it isn’t like the Cubs are trying to rush a young pup to send him to the lions. Getting him ready for the closer’s job shouldn’t take as long as it would for a youngster. He is more mature and even if the battles he had in the Cuban league isn’t like Major League Baseball, it is tougher than in the minor leagues. If he continues his success, look for his callup soon, probably as soon as this summer.