Viola set for fine tuning
By John Fay • email@example.com • March 15, 2009
SARASOTA, Fla. - Left-hander Pedro Viola clearly has the arm to make the jump from Double-A to the big leagues.
The Reds probably don't have a spot to accommodate the move this spring.
"I don't know if it's right now or not," manager Dusty Baker said. "You usually carry two left-handers. Billy Bray is not hurt. If Bray was hurt, it would be a different story."
Bray is dealing with a slightly strained left hamstring. He's unable to pitch in games - the Reds don't want to risk him covering first - but he is throwing live batting practice.
If Bray doesn't get healthy in time, Viola could very well make the club.
Viola has pitched three times - twice for the Reds and once for the Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic - this spring. He's retired all nine batters he's faced, three by strikeout.
"I remember we took Steve Howe with the Dodgers," Baker said. "He was out of Double-A. He ended up being our closer. That was a big step."
"A lot of it is the confidence of the young man and the catcher you have to lead the young man through the forest - as Van Morrison would say."
Viola is 25 years old. But he's only been in the Reds system for three years. The Reds signed him after the San Francisco Giants released him in 2005, just four months after signing him.
"All he had was a fastball when he was with the Giants," said Mario Soto, a Reds special assistant and the team's Dominican pitching guru. "He's got a great arm."
Soto taught Viola the changeup.
With the new pitch, Viola went 3-5 with a 2.04 ERA in the Dominican Summer League in 2006.
The following summer Mike LaCoss, then a Reds' roving instructor, taught Viola the curveball.
Viola went a combined 3-2 with a 1.42 ERA in stops at Dayton, Sarasota and Chattanooga.
"His curveball is better than his changeup now," Soto said.
Last year, Viola went 4-7 with a 4.48 ERA at Chattanooga.
"I was kind of wild at the beginning," he said. "But then I pitched better."
Soto is fan of Viola's and not just because of his stuff.
"He's one of the hardest workers we've got," Soto said. "This kid really wants to be good."