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Johan Oviedo taking steps to become dependable starting pitcher

Oviedo delivered a complete-game shutout Monday against the Royals.

MLB: Pittsburgh Pirates at Kansas City Royals Peter Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

It hasn’t been sunshine and rainbows for Johan Oviedo to begin his MLB career. Far from it. For some starting pitchers, success comes in the blink of an eye. For others, a change in scenery and philosophy benefits their career.

Following two seasons with ERA’s either nearing (4.91 in 2021) or over five (5.47 in 2020) to begin his career, Oviedo was traded halfway through the 2022 season.

The Pittsburgh Pirates acquired the 6’5” righty in the Jose Quintana and Chris Stratton deal, along with first baseman Malcolm Nuñez.

Oviedo’s game logs are up and down and doing loops like the Steel Curtain at Kennywood. In simpler terms, he performs as either a top pitcher in the game or one leaving much to be desired.

For example, in six August starts, Oviedo produced four starts of one run or fewer and two appearances allowing four or more runs.

The cherry on top came in his last outing, delivering a complete game, two-hit shutout, 5-0 win against the Royals in Kansas City. Oviedo walked two, struck out five, and did not allow a runner to reach past first base. It’s the first instance that’s happened since Jeff Locke on May 30, 2016. He was excellent.

Pirates broadcaster Joe Block pointed to numerous examples of why Oviedo has blossomed into one of the best starting pitchers in baseball after the All-Star break.

Since the break, Oviedo holds the second-lowest opposing batting average (.168), only behind some guy named Shohei Ohtani (.165). Oviedo decreased his ERA .26 points, down from 4.46 to 4.20.

The most incredible part of his outing came from Block through Stathead. Oviedo completed the Pirates first nine-inning complete game in an AL park since Babe Adams against the Detroit Tigers in the clinching game of the 1909 World Series! That was… check notes… 114 years ago.

He also leads the majors in starts allowing 0-1 runs with 13. He was tied with Ohtani, San Diego’s Blake Snell, Arizona’s Zac Gallen, Toronto’s Yushei Kikucki, and Atlanta’s Bryce Elder entering his start Monday.

Oviedo will get another crack at the Cardinals, if the rotation stays in line, on Sunday at PNC Park. Early questions surrounding his consistency and ability to limit big innings still remain.

The 25-year-old righty ranks in the 94th percentile in extension, according to Baseball Savant, but 30th in walk rate, 28th in strikeout rate and 12th in chase rate.

He still has things to learn, but the signs shown in the past month and a half are extremely encouraging.

The Pirates surely won the Quintana trade by acquiring a potential No. 3 starter to team with Paul Skenes and Mitch Keller. The question that remains, by how much?