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Efrain Nieves Lowers Arm Angle, Re-signs for 2014

Efrain Nieves Lowers Arm Angle, Re-signs for 2014

February 5, 2014

Nieves worked on his delivery in 2013 with the Lansing Lugnuts (milb.com).

The Blue Jays organization re-signed left-handed reliever Efrain Nieves this past November as part of their off-season transactions.  And for good reason. Nieves, who was selected by the Blue Jays in the 2012 Rule 5 draft from the Detroit Tigers organization, had a strong 2013 season thanks to a mechanical change that helped him be tougher on right-handed hitters.

Being selected and re-signed by the Blue Jays was an exciting time for the Caguas, Puerto Rico native who wanted to remain in the organization after spending time with two other major league franchises. Nieves wanted to find a place to stay for a while and he felt at home with the coaches and teammates he met in the Blue Jays organization.

“Being picked up in the rule 5 draft was awesome. It was one of the greatest feelings outside of the original draft. There’s really not many words to describe it – it just felt great!” he said. “It was exciting to be re-signed by the Blue Jays too because I learned a lot in this organization and I like everybody I met in the organization as well. All of my coaches and teammates are great people.”

Nieves spent time with the Brewers and Tigers organization before joining the Blue Jays.

Nieves’ journey in the Blue Jays organization began in the Florida State League as a member of the Dunedin Blue Jays rotation. In the FSL, Nieves went 2-2 with a 5.49 ERA and 13 strikeouts in 19 2/3 innings of work.

In May, the organization decided it would be a better fit for Nieves to go to the Midwest League to work with Lansing Lugnuts pitching coach Vince Horsman and the two made an instant bond.  Horsman, a coach known for identifying problems in pitchers, started the progression of lowering Nieves’ arm angle to be tougher on right-handed hitters and getting him to hide his pitch more. Both worked out well for Nieves in 2013 and for his future seasons to come.

“Hiding the pitch is something I worked hard on in Lansing.  I don’t have an overpowering fastball so it really helps,” he said. “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.”

“Working with Vince Horsman is awesome. He’s a laid back guy and handles his business well. It’s great that he can bring major league experience to the table for every pitcher in the organization. It’s something that sticks out on his resume,” he added.“Every player in the minor leagues wants to make it to the majors and having him around is a great experience for everybody in the organization.”

Horsman indicated that he really enjoyed working with Nieves this past season and feels that the Puerto Rico native is a major asset to the Blue Jays organization.

“Efrain has been a great kid and a model citizen so I’ve really enjoyed working with him and helping him develop his game,” said Horsman. “He’s a left-hander and he gets left-handers out. A player like him is going to find work for a long time. He has done a lot of good things this [past] year and he understands what he needs to do to be successful. He’s a great kid and it’s been a pleasure having him here with us this [past] season.”

In Lansing, Nieves was a staple in the Lugnuts bullpen. The 24-year-old averaged close to a strikeout an inning collecting 54 K’s in 55 innings of work. He posted a 4.09 ERA and a 2-2 record while a member of the Blue Jays Midwest League affiliate.

“Lansing has a great atmosphere. It’s a great stadium and city. It’s been a great experience. I really like the city because everything you need is close by. You don’t have to travel much to get what you need and the fans have been great as well.”

Representing Puerto Rico, Nieves pitched 2.1 innings against Team Canada in the 2013 World Baseball Classic (newshopper).

Many baseball fans probably remember Nieves as a member of the 2013 World Baseball Classic silver-medal winning Puerto Rico team. Playing for his country was the proudest moment in Nieves career and he stated every moment of the tournament was amazing and will remain with him forever.

“Playing in the World Baseball Classic is the greatest baseball moment of my life,” he said. “Every moment from receiving the phone call to even losing the final game to the Dominican Republic was an awesome experience. There’s no better feeling. It was awesome knowing you had your country name across your chest. It was also amazing being able to play with Major League players. Every player there was an all-star or a future all-star. Going up against that competition was a blessing.”

With spring training fast approaching, Nieves completed a busy off-season that included weight lifting and playing winter baseball in his hometown of Caguas, Puerto Rico. Playing in the Puerto Rican league, Nieves went 3-1 with a 3.41 ERA, starting in 6 of his 10 appearances and maintaining his high strike out ratio, striking out 28 batters in just over 31 innings.

“In the offs-eason I lift weights and play for Caguas, Pedro López. Last year we won the championship so I’m motivated to go back and defend the title,” he said, “Winning the championship was awesome especially doing it in my hometown. It was my first professional championship so it was an amazing feeling. I can’t wait to win another championship!”


Brian Crawford

Brian Crawford

Brian has covered professional baseball for eight seasons for numerous media outlets.
Brian Crawford