The Lamigo Monkeys have not had much help in the left-handed pitching department so far in 2016. In 16 starts, southpaws Wang I Chen and Greg Smith have surrendered 73 runs in just 89.2 innings of work, good for a 7.33 ERA and 2.01 WHIP. With only 18 games left in the first half of the season, the Monkeys currently sit 7.5 games out of first and six games under .500. They are hoping that newly signed left-handed pitcher Efrain Nieves can add an element to their rotation that, so far, has been missing.
Nieves was signed from the Somerset Patriots of the Atlantic League where his numbers were impressive. The Puerto Rican-born pitcher was the owner of a 1.33 ERA and a 0.89 WHIP over 27 innings while striking out nearly a batter an inning. Nieves is the definition of a crafty lefty as he relies on varying arm slots to be more deceptive.
“Hiding the pitch is something I worked hard on in Lansing (Blue Jays single-A). I don’t have an overpowering fastball so it really helps,” Nieves told Brian Crawford of JaysProspects.com back in 2014. “The little things I can do to help my game, like hiding the ball and dropping my arm angle, makes it harder for hitters to pick up the pitches. It’ll be better for me in the long run.”
Nieves will be joining fellow Puerto Rican and 2013 World Baseball Classic teammate Orlando Roman on the Monkeys. The pair helped the Puerto Rican national team win silver after knocking off Japan in the semifinals. Nieves saw action in one game, allowing a run on three hits over 2.1 innings while walking one and striking out two.
There is no good indication as to whether a pitcher will succeed in the CPBL. Having good stuff as a pitcher in North America doesn't always correlate to having good stuff in Taiwan. Currently, only three foreign pitchers rostered in 2016 (not including Bryan Woodall, who is currently on the Brothers' second team) pitched in the CPBL in 2015 and already six import players have been released this season. It's a difficult league to adapt to, but being a good teammate and having the right attitude are always positive characteristics for any player to bring with them. Nieves' former manager, Brett Jodie, describes the 26-year-old to Mike Ashmore of My Central Jersey.
“It was a pleasure having him around here, he was a great human being. He had a great locker room presence and was respected and liked by everybody, and he did a great job for us on the field. But, at the same time, you like the fact that he gets an opportunity. He probably hasn’t made too much money in his career, I’m guessing. He gets recognized for doing well here and gets a chance to make some money and further his career and potentially open up some other doors. It’s a great opportunity for him, this is what this place is about and we’re happy for him.”
Efrain later discussed how leaving his current team wasn't an easy thing for him, but the opportunity to play across the globe is a challenge that he is willing to take on.
“Like I’ve said from the very first day, this is a great group of guys. As much as I hate leaving Somerset and the guys, it’s a great opportunity for my career. But don’t get me wrong, it’s hard to leave the boys. Hopefully, they can keep doing what they’re doing. I definitely want a ring, so hopefully, they keep playing hard."
"It's a new challenge, and I'm excited to see what the culture brings and what the atmosphere of the games will be like," the 26-year-old added. "It's something that I'm not familiar with, so it'll be interesting with the language, community and just the way they play baseball out there."
Nieves is still in the USA getting his work visa sorted. The Monkeys currently have Ryan Searle, Orlando Roman and Greg Smith on the roster as their other import players. The organisation has not made any corresponding moves since Nieves' signing.
Big thanks to Mike Ashmore for his help with the quotes and being the first to break the Nieves signing. Check out his entire article about Nieves' departure from the Somerset Patriots of the Atlantic League.