The Pittsburgh Pirates have signed right handed reliever Juan Cruz to a minor league deal with an invite to Spring Training, per a team press release. Cruz has a strong track record in the majors, with a career 4.13 ERA in 619.1 innings, along with a 9.1 K/9 and a 4.8 BB/9 ratio. Last year he pitched 48.2 innings with the Tampa Bay Rays, putting up a 3.88 ERA, an 8.5 K/9 and a 5.2 BB/9 ratio.
Control has always been an issue for Cruz, but he’s got good stuff which leads to a strikeout an inning. His velocity has gone down the last few years, averaging 92.8 MPH in 2011, which was down from the 94-95 MPH range in 2007-2009.
Cruz looked like a strong set-up man in 2008 with the Diamondbacks, when he had a 2.61 ERA, along with a 12.37 K/9 and a 5.4 BB/9 ratio. He struggled with the Royals in 2009, and missed most of the 2010 season with a shoulder injury.
Out of all of the non-roster invitees the Pirates have added this off-season, Cruz looks like the best bet to make the majors, just based on his previous history out of the bullpen. He’s got the stuff to potentially be an option in the 8th inning.