Caminero adds heat to existing bullpen fire
Big righty brings triple-digit heater to group that averaged hardest fastball in 2014
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The Pirates continued the turnover of their 40-man roster with Wednesday's acquisition from Miami of righty reliever Arquimedes Caminero, the 13th newcomer to the list, six of them pitchers. More bullpen heat to melt down opposition rallies.
The 6-foot-4, 250-pound Caminero has been known to dial his fastball up to 100 mph, and he will be one of six relievers in Spring Training camp who has hit 98 mph on the gun. Three others are also new faces -- Rob Scahill, Radhames Liz and Blake Wood (the only non-roster invitee) -- joining incumbents John Holdzkom and Stolmy Pimentel.
More logs on the fire because, quite surprisingly, the Bucs' bullpen already had the Majors' most firepower in 2014, when their relievers' average fastball was clocked at 90.6 mph (Atlanta was next at 90.1). This, despite the fact Pimentel was used sparingly and Holdzkom didn't surface until September. The speed average was boosted by Justin Wilson, since dealt to the Yankees for catcher Francisco Cervelli, who had the top fastball in last year's bullpen.
Stockpiling more hard-throwing relievers is in line with manager Clint Hurdle's affinity for pitchers who come downhill with swing-and-miss stuff. General manager Neal Huntington may be even more stuck on "the big arm."
The Bucs have a relatively soft-throwing closer in Mark Melancon, who lives by movement and control, but he is made more effective by following the harder throwers to the mound.
Caminero has an inside track to be one of those: He went on the team's 40-man roster without remaining Minor League options, meaning he must either break camp with Pittsburgh or be exposed on waivers. Whatever cash considerations they turned over for Caminero, the Pirates don't envision it as a six-week investment.
The 27-year-old bounced around for nine years in the Marlins' system, collecting 451 strikeouts in 369 1/3 innings in 247 games -- including 79 K's in 63 innings last season with Triple-A New Orleans. Caminero's brief 2013-14 big league exposures are skewed by an ugly appearance early last April, in which he gave up five runs in one-third of an inning; he has a 3.26 ERA for his other 18 outings.
Scahill, acquired from Colorado in a November deal for a low-level 2013 Draft pick (righty Shane Carle) has a remaining option, so he figures to begin the season in Indianapolis.
Liz has done very little relieving in his career, but if he doesn't crack the rotation, the Pirates may use him as a long reliever/spot starter -- the role Jeanmar Gomez filled spectacularly in 2013.
Wood, signed as a Minor League free agent, could be the hardest thrower of them all. He averaged 97.2 mph in 2012 prior to Tommy John surgery, and he was back last year with only a slight dip, to 95.6.