Radhames Liz was in mini camp today at Pirate City, giving him his first day of work in the Pittsburgh Pirates’ organization. The right-hander met with the media after the day’s workouts, and discussed what led to him signing with Pittsburgh.
The rumors surrounding Liz were drawn out, with initial reports saying that he had agreed to a two-year deal worth $3 M. Liz said that he didn’t have any two-year offers from the Pirates, but that he had an offer from Japan for that amount. The Japan offer was rumored at the time, and it seems likely that the rumors out of Korea and the Dominican Republic talking about a two-year deal were mixing up where each deal was coming from. Liz eventually signed a one-year deal for $1 M.
He said that there was a lot of interest in him, and that he eventually chose the Pirates after talking with Stolmy Pimentel, and one of his good friends, Daniel Cabrera, who was with the Pirates organization in 2012. Liz also said that his conversation with Neal Huntington helped convince him to sign.
“I liked the way he talked to me,” Liz said of the conversation. “I liked what he told me. He convinced me to choose the team.”
There was also a delay in signing Liz. His Dominican team announced an agreement a few weeks before he officially signed. He reportedly flew to Pittsburgh a few weeks before signing. There were rumors that the hold up was due to problems with his physical, although Liz denied that, saying that he had no physical issues. He did mention that he had a knee injury last year with the Blue Jays, but that he’s over that now.
One of the notable things about Liz, prior to his signing, was his fastball. He was routinely hitting 95 MPH in the Dominican, showing off the heat that made him one of the top prospects in the game back in 2008.
“It [was] never gone,” Liz said of his fastball. “It’s always been there. I was just out of the United States for a couple of years.”
The big issue in the past was a lack of control. He did a better job of that this off-season, but it remains to be seen if he can repeat that success this time in the majors.
“I really believe I changed a lot. I changed the way to think pitching,” Liz said on what has been different for him. “My stuff is still there, better control. Stronger mentally. Knowing what to do in certain situations. Things like that make me a better pitcher.”
Liz is likely to take a spot in the Pirates’ bullpen, and the odds of him being a starter are slim. He said that he prefers to start, but is preparing for anything. The bullpen role might be best to ease him back in the majors, especially since all of the high pressure roles are taken, leaving him with a low pressure situation to deal with in his return.
The Pirates recently won the bidding for Korean infielder Jung-Ho Kang, and a report came out today that they have agreed to a deal with him. Liz faced Kang while he was playing in Korea, and talked about the infielder’s hitting skills.
“He’s a pretty good hitter,” Liz said. “He’s the type of guy you have to [not] leave the ball in one place. He can hit the breaking pitch and he can hit the fastball too.”
As for whether Kang can make the jump to the U.S. and carry his hitting over, the answer from Liz was simple.
“If he doesn’t change anything, I think he’ll be alright.”