Oliveros Gets Down To Move Up With Tigers
DETROIT—To say that righthander Lester Oliveros dominated Double-A hitters to start this season would be an understatement.
The 23-year-old native of Venezuela allowed just nine hits and one run in 16 innings spread over nine relief appearances. Eastern Leaguers batted just .170 against him, and Oliveros struck out 27 while walking just four.
What caused the change for Oliveros in his return to Erie, where last season he had a 4.97 ERA in 24 appearances?
"This year he found 'down' and 'hard' at the same time," minor league pitching coordinator Jon Matlack said. "Last year he found 'hard,' but a lot of times he didn't find 'down.' "
Oliveros has had "hard" in his repertoire ever since the Tigers signed him in October 2005. That helped him to a breakthrough last season with high Class A Lakeland, where the 6-foot, 185-pounder posted a 1.89 ERA in 20 appearances in his third year in the Florida State League.
He was promoted to Erie in late June, and while he did strike out 36 in 25 innings, he didn't have the same overall success. What was the difference?
"A lot of his success in Erie this year was a combination of him maturing as a pitcher as well as getting the ball down," Matlack said. "Plus, he believed he was equal to the task instead of hoping he was."
Currently his fastball sits at 94-96 mph, and he is working to develop a changeup and slider to keep hitters off his fastball. Both secondary pitches need work, one reason he didn't record a single strikeout in his first three innings with Triple-A Toledo after he was promoted on May 5. He did record two strikeouts and a save on May 13 against Gwinnett in his third appearance.
"They are both progressing, but they still need to get a little better for me," Matlack said. "They tease you once in a while—you see an average one once in a while—but they need to grow in consistency a little bit."
• Another righthander piling up strikeouts is low Class A West Michigan's Bruce Rondon, who struck out 27 Midwest League batters in his first 17 innings. Rondon is dealing with control issues, having walked 16 and thrown six wild pitches.
• Outfielder Ben Guez, 24, spent most of last year in Triple-A, but he responded well to playing every day in Double-A to start 2011. Guez batted .340/.404/.600 in 30 Double-A games before a promotion to Toledo, where he was off to a .364/.417/.545 start.