Name: Armando Rivero, P
Age: 27 (2/1/1988)
How acquired—Signed as a free agent on March 5, 2013, after defecting from Cuba. Scouted by Louis Eljuau and Jose Serra.
Tennessee Smokies, Southern League, AA (26 G, 2-1, 10 SV, 1.56 ERA, 34.2 IP, 16 BB, 54 K, 0.98 WHIP);
Iowa Cubs, Pacific Coast League, AAA, (23 G, 3-0, 1 SV, 2.97 ERA, 30.1 IP, 12 BB, 46 K, 1.22 WHIP)
Prior to Cubs
A teammate of Cubs prospect Gerardo Concepcion for Industrials in Cuba’s Series Nacional, Rivero spent four seasons pitching out the bullpen in Cuba before defecting. He threw 47 innings his final season (2010) with 38 K and a 3.08 ERA, and totaled 148 innings in the Cuban league.
After signing for a reported $3.1 million deal, Rivero headed to Mesa to start a throwing program and in late June the Cubs turned the Cuban fireballer loose in the Midwest League. Pitching for the first time in nearly two years, Rivero knocked off the rust at Kane County making his pro debut on June 22. He faced eight hitters and allowed five hits, including a homer, and walked one. In his first six games, he surrendered 14 hits, four leaving the park, in 8.2 innings for a 11.42 ERA. The right-hander finally got into a rhythm and showed a glimpse of why the Cubs signed him. In his final five games in the MWL, which included his first pro save, Rivero fanned 18 in 9.2 innings and didn’t allow a run, issuing five hits and four walks. He was sent to Daytona the first week of August and pitched in three games with D-Cubs, notching his second save while allowing a run in 3.1 innings with 5 K. After a week in Florida, Rivero was promoted to Tennessee where he fanned four in his AA debut in two shutout innings of relief. Rivero appeared in six games for the Smokies, recording 12 strikeouts in 8.2 innings with eight hits and three walks for a 2.08 ERA. Rivero added 11 more innings to his resume in the Arizona Fall League, going 0-1 with a 4.91 ERA. Rivero had a streak of allowing a run in five straight games but finished the AFL with four scoreless innings, including an outing where his fastball averaged 96.
Some were surprised that Rivero started the year in Tennessee but with bullpen innings at a premium in Iowa, it was a perfect spot to get him work. And work he did, appearing in 26 games and averaging 14 punchouts per nine innings. Rivero threw 34.2 innings in AA with a .153 BAA and a 0.98 WHIP. He was named to the Southern League all-star team and after converting on 10-of-12 save chances, was promoted to Iowa mid-June. Used as the set-up man for rest of the season, Rivero threw 30.1 AAA innings and logged 46 more strikeouts with 12 walks. He did surrender four homers and finished with a 2.97 ERA and a 1.22 WHIP.
I was rather surprised at the lack of work that Rivero saw this year in spring training, and that didn’t come until March 14 and only lasted four hitters. There were no reports of any arm problems but either he had some or the Cubs are just starting him out slowly so he’s fresh at the end of the season. Rivero will start the year at Iowa but has big league stuff—a tailing fastball that hits 94-97, a sharp slider in the low 90s, and a decent change-up. The only flaw in Rivero’s game is the ability to consistently command the strike zone, and once the Cubs are comfortable, will get his chance at Wrigley. The Cubs will still need to clear a 40-man roster sport and that may be another reason he started the year in the minors.