Triple-A Syracuse Chiefs third baseman Carlos Rivero is hitting his stride at just the right time.
These next two months are critical to Rivero’s career. Out of options and only 24 years old, Rivero is close to getting his shot, either with the Nationals or with another team next season. And sensing the importance, Rivero is not shying away from the challenge but relishing it.
Syracuse manager Tony Beasley has seen the 6-foot-3, 215 lb., Rivero find his rhythm at the dish. The last 10 games, Rivero is hitting a stunning .438 with four doubles, two homers and seven RBIs with only two strikeouts.
“He is really coming alive offensively,” Beasley said. “Rivero is aggressive and recognizes his pitch. He is having really good at-bats for us. He is learning to use the whole field and not just pull everything.
“He is starting to come out of his shell a little bit and understand that he is a player and he has potential. The thing that is tricky for him is he is 24 years old and he is out of options that has never played a day in the big leagues.”
Rivero has also shown he is versatile in the field, which, like a Tyler Moore or a Michael Morse, will make him a hotter commodity for a team because he can do so many things because of his athletic ability and quick study capability.
“He can play shortstop,” Beasley said. “That is what he came up as in the Indians organization. He can go to first base and play. He is taking ground balls at second base. I would say more first and third and a little bit at short. He probably could throw in the outfield in a pinch.”
But the clock is ticking because Rivero is out of options. Beasley has made sure Rivero is well aware of what is coming his way as the season winds down.
“That is part of my conversations with him,” Beasley said. “I have told him, ‘You are young, but you have to get it. You have to get to the big leagues and stay because of your situation with options. You don’t have the option of coming down.’
“He has to go up and stay there or he would be designated or something like that. There would have to be a move made.”
Rivero was signed by the Indians as a non-drafted free agent out of Venezuela in 2005. He was claimed off waivers by the Nationals from the Phillies before this season.
His .310 average eclipses his .270 and .232 averages the past two seasons. More importantly, his on-base percentage has jumped from .278 to .326 to .355 this season. He has walked 10 less times than last season (29 to 39), but he also has shown much better plate discipline, cutting his strikeouts almost in half, from 112 to 63.
Beasley said Rivero knows his situation and has used his experience to help him get better in 2012. Beasley believes Rivero’s options were used up early in his career and that puts him in a tough spot.
“He was on a roster so young and his options were used up by just going to spring training, and I think that is very unfair for the kid,” Beasley said. “But that is the scenario and I wanted to make sure he understood that and because of that, he really has to lock himself in mentally to playing the game of baseball.
“At 24 years old, he has to look like, ‘I am a big leaguer that is ready to stay. I can play every day for somebody, if not for us then somebody else.’ But that is how we have been coaching him this year and I think he understands that. He has got a sense of urgency because of it. He has taken it and ran with it.”
Rivero should get the promotion as a September call-up with the Nationals. That way, the Nationals and major league baseball can see what they have. Rivero has proven he has the ability to go now.