He began the Gulf Coast League season in 2010 as a right fielder with a very strong arm for the Orioles entry in that league. He ended the year as a pitcher.
Jose Nivar, like a lot of youngsters from the Dominican, apparently has a pretty powerful right arm.
He was signed by Carlos Bernhardt on Sept. 7, 2006, and the next three seasons played as an outfielder, mostly in the Dominican Summer League.
But Nivar struggled at the bat and many O’s coaches and minor league instructors had wondered what that big right arm would look like on a mound.
So, on July 17 of last summer, he played his last game in the outfield. He began pitching in the GCL on Aug. 5. In five games, over five innings, he allowed three hits and three runs with seven walks and five strikeouts.
This, after he hit just .167 in 60 at-bats in 19 games. For his career, Nivar batted just .224 in 518 at-bats without a homer and an OPS of .583.
But here is the matter that sets him apart: Nivar can throw a fastball in the mid- to upper 90s and some say he may have even hit triple digits a time or two in camp in Sarasota, Fla.
But before anyone gets overly carried away by this news, Nivar is still learning how to pitch and it seems doubtful that he will even be on a full season roster come April. He may stay behind at extended spring, get in some games there and continue to learn how to pitch.
The right-hander is 22 now and if he ever could even advance far enough to make the majors that would be likely years down the road.
Nivar may be considered somewhat of a raw project at this point and there have been countless young pitchers that lit up a radar gun but never made it. Still, a high 90s fastball gets your attention and some have said Nivar’s bullpen sessions earlier in camp would draw a crowd.
I wish him well. He is not the first minor leaguer to be tried on the mound after failing to hit and won’t be the last.
The odds against him are long. But some potential is there and he is someone worth keeping tabs on this year.
A few reminders: We will have a MASNsports.com chat with fans and give away two tickets to Monday’s home opener this Friday at Hightopps in Timonium.
MASN’s new baseball show, “The Mid-Atlantic Sports Report,” debuts tomorrow.
Join me each weeknight this season from 10 p.m. to midnight on 105.7 FM, the Fan in Baltimore when I host “Baltimore Baseball Tonight,”: it’s your chance to call-in and talk about the Orioles this season after the games.