Close call: Oviedo laughs off scare in debut

Cardinals prospect snares 109 mph liner off Schwarber's bat

August 20th, 2020

Cardinals rookie not only showed off his talent in his Major League debut Wednesday at Wrigley Field, but he also showed off his reflexes.

To lead off the fourth inning of St. Louis' 4-2 loss in Game 2 of the seven-inning doubleheader, Oviedo threw Cubs cleanup hitter Kyle Schwarber a 96 mph fastball on a 1-0 count, and Schwarber lined a 109 mph scorcher right back at Oviedo, who was finishing his delivery on the left side of the mound. The 22-year-old put his glove up just in time to catch the ball before it hit his head.

It was a scary moment, but Oviedo was OK. He walked off the mound and let out a little laugh before signaling to Schwarber, home-plate umpire Erich Bacchus and the Cardinals' dugout that he was fine. Schwarber also expressed his relief after the near-miss.

“It was good luck that it was right into my chest,” Oviedo said. “I put my glove close to it, and I snagged that ball in the last second. But yeah, it came fast.

“In that moment, I wasn’t thinking about anything. Just tried to get my mind back on the game.”

Shadows played into it, as many watching on the field didn’t know where the ball ended up.

“Man, I think if you look at the video, I think every single guy on that field flinched,” second baseman Kolten Wong said. “It was hit so hard, and with the shadows, you couldn’t really tell where that ball was at. All of a sudden you heard a hit, and your first thought is not to look, because usually a ball hit up the middle doesn’t pan out well for a pitcher. But just happy he made the play. Just tried to give him some time to settle down. That’s not something pitchers usually make plays on.”

Added Cubs manager David Ross: “I looked, and was looking in the outfield for the ball. And you heard it just smack his glove. I guess it caught him, or he caught it somehow. I have no idea. But that's definitely a scary moment.”

Oviedo had his contract selected from the Cardinals' alternate training site in Springfield, Mo., which was announced following the Cards' 9-3 win in Game 1 of the twin bill. He said he found out he was going to the big leagues Tuesday morning, when pitching coordinator Tim Leveque knocked on his door to tell him to get going. Leveque tried calling, but with the day off from camp, Oviedo was still sleeping and had his phone on the “do not disturb” mode.

“I was like, ‘What? What did you say?” Oviedo recalled asking Leveque. “And he said, ‘You better pack your stuff. You’re going to the big leagues.’ So I was really happy, called my mom and family and started packing my stuff."

After a seven-hour drive to Chicago, Oviedo became the eighth Cardinals pitcher to make his Major League debut over the last five days, and it was an impressive one.

Ranked by MLB Pipeline as the Cardinals' No. 13 prospect, Oviedo became St. Louis' first starter in this five-game, three-day series to complete the fourth inning. He allowed two runs when he walked Schwarber and Willson Contreras to lead off the second inning, and gave up a single to Victor Caratini for a 2-0 lead.

Oviedo went five innings overall, allowing those two runs on two hits while striking out four and walking two. In the first inning, he struck out Javier Báez swinging on an 84 mph slider, one of Oviedo’s best pitches.