Johan Oviedo: Cardinals 2020 Rookie Of The Year

When righthander Johan Oviedo received the call that he was headed to the majors, the callup came sooner than expected, but it meant a longer drive than usual.

As part of their return to play from a 17-day quarantine, the Cardinals churned through pitchers and called on Oviedo to make the first start of his big league career at Wrigley Field.

The catch: The 22-year-old had to drive himself from Springfield, Mo., to Chicago, per team COVID-19 protocols.

His rookie year took flight from there.

Oviedo pitched five strong innings in his debut, struck out four, and made four more starts for the Cardinals. All of them lasted at least 4.2 innings, and while he did not snag a win, his performance in those 24.2 innings, including a 5.47 ERA, 16 strikeouts and 10 walks, earned him a spot in the postseason bullpen.

It wasn’t the expected route, but it was the destination the Cardinals expected for the Cuban righthander after a strong spring training continued into an eye-catching summer camp.

“He’s right there in the mix,” Cardinals manager Mike Shildt said. “He’s looking. He’s learning. He’s growing. He should have that expectations of knowing where he’s at, and the trajectory of his career . . . It’s good to see he’s thinking he fits and he belongs.”

When spring camps shuttered, Oviedo returned to Havana so that he could be with his family during the pandemic. His father stretched a blanket onto a wooden frame and set it atop the family’s home so Oviedo could continue throwing—on the roof.

He took what he learned in spring and applied it on the roof. He returned to the Cardinals with an improved slider he could now command better to lefthanded batters.

He coupled that with the long extension that comes from his 6-foot-5 frame. His 98 mph fastball plays a little faster because he releases it closer to home plate.

It’s a mix that the Cardinals know will work in the bullpen, but the club’s need for a starter allowed Oviedo to leapfrog the usual avenue and head straight for the rotation, where he has the pitch mix to remain.


— OutfielderDylan Carlson made his postseason debut batting cleanup for the Cardinals and became just the third player in club history to do so at age 21 or younger. The previous two were Stan Musial (1942) and Albert Pujols (2001). They both went 0-for-4. Carlson had two hits and reached base four times in his postseason debut.

-— By the end of their 2020 season, the Cardinals had 13 players make their major league debuts. That baker’s dozen included lefthander Rob Kaminsky, their first-round pick in 2013 who was traded in 2015 and reacquired as a minor league free agent. He recorded a 1.93 ERA in 4.2 innings.

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