Cuban righty Armando Rivero is the Chicago Cubs’ latest international splurge, costing the organization a healthy $3.1 million signing bonus.
But, like, we still know almost nothing about him.
Unlike the pursuit of guys like Gerardo Concepcion and Jorge Soler, where there was a great deal of build-up before the signing, very little was written about Rivero before he was inked, and much of what was written dates back to mid-2012. He was held up in his immigration process (coming by way of the Dominican Republic and then Haiti, like Soler (who’s Haitian process went much more quickly, just in time for him to be signed to a mega-contract before the new international spending restrictions (not that I’m explicitly connecting any illicit dots, I’m just sayin’ … it was convenient for everyone))), and only recently was able to finally come to the United States.
For those reasons, hearing some thoughts on Rivero straight from the horse’s mouth is pretty interesting. In this instance, the horse is Cubs Scouting and Player Development Chief Jason McLeod.
“Obviously, [Rivero] had his saga of getting into the States and getting his residency and all that,” McLeod told CSN. [So] he’s just going through his throwing program right now. I think he’s only been off the mound once, so we’re gradually building him back up. It had been … a year, probably more than a year now, since he’s pitched competitively. He was in Haiti for six, seven months with a few of the other guys [establishing residency]. We’re just taking baby steps with him.”
McLeod says that Rivero will likely start the season at one of the A-ball levels (though I wouldn’t rule out a stay at extended Spring Training as he gets back into the swing of facing batters), though it’s fair to guess that the 25-year-old could move more quickly.
“He’s a little older guy now, but he’s got a really good arm and showed three pitches with a mid-90s fastball,” McLeod said. “So we’re just going to baby-step it and see where he is. Once he’s ready to get out of here, we’ll certainly put him in a starting role somewhere, just to build up his innings.”
By starting Rivero, the Cubs can be more certain that he’s getting in his regular work, with a set number of pitches or innings in each outing. It’s another sign – if the $3.1 million wasn’t enough – that the Cubs really do think highly of Rivero, even if he’s a future bullpen arm. There are only so many “starting” jobs in the system, and the Cubs really do have a number of interesting pitching prospects at the lower levels. So, giving one of those “starting” spots to Rivero reflects the Cubs’ commitment. Fortunately, with piggy-backing, Rivero’s presence likely won’t displace a legitimate starting pitching prospect.
Like so many in the system these days, Rivero will be an arm to watch as the season progresses. Given his age and advanced background, it wouldn’t be shocking to see him getting consideration for the big club in the second half of the season, depending on how he’s adjusting to the States.