Vladimir Gutierrez signed with the Cincinnati Reds on September 7th or 2016. He was just 20-years-old at the time and had defected from Cuba for a chance to play in the Major Leagues.
“In 2015 I told my mom ‘I’m leaving, I know I have this in me and I can become a professional pitcher’ – I went to Puerto Rico, stayed there for a little bit and then went to Mexico and pitched a couple months there,” Gutierrez said on Friday.
The journey to the big leagues after signing wasn’t always a smooth one. The right-handed starter posted ERA’s of 4.46, 4.35, and 6.04 in his three full seasons in the minors. That last one was particularly tough as the juiced baseball in Triple-A led to him allowing 26 home runs in 137.0 innings. It was the following spring, in 2020, that he was suspended for 80 games after testing positive for the steroid stanozolol. With the shortened season that kept him off of the field with both the Reds and the alternate site team. Over the offseason he pitched in the Dominican Winter League and then was eligible to pitch in spring training even though he was still serving the remainder of his suspension.
A strong spring where he didn’t allow an earned run and had 11 strikeouts in 7.0 innings carried over to his start with Triple-A Louisville when their season began in May. In his three starts there he posted a 2.65 ERA in 17.0 innings with just nine hits allowed, seven walks, and he struck out 21 batters.
All of that led to Gutierrez taking the mound in Chicago on Friday afternoon on a cold and incredibly windy day. They don’t call it The Windy City for because Dave Thomas’ daughter hangs out there a lot. Terrible joke but I’m not deleting it.
On Friday there was just one mistake made – a line drive home run by David Bote. Unfortunately for both Vladimir Gutierrez and the Cincinnati Reds that was the only run scored in the entire game. The Reds rookie only gave up one other hit in his 5.0 innings, he walked two, and he picked up three strikeouts. He only needed 67 pitches to get through his outing, but a run scoring opportunity in the top of the 6th inning led to his being pinch hit for despite a low pitch count.
“I’m really not upset with the results today, they were really well. I was really happy with my performance today,” Gutierrez said after the game. “The wind was blowing in, obviously, and it was helping me out. I was able to mix in my pitches well, and I was using a lot of my spin pitches. Really, everything from the curveball, slider – everything, I was able to mix it in and it was working well today.”
There’s a chance that the weather did come into play more than just helping crush fly balls, though. It was very cold in Chicago on Friday and the average fastball velocity for Vladimir Gutierrez on the day was just 92.2 MPH. He only topped 94 MPH once, hitting 94.2 against Kris Bryant in the 1st inning. In the minors this season that’s been about his average fastball velocity.
With Jeff Hoffman now on the injured list there’s a spot opened up in the rotation. Wade Miley is set to return on Monday, with Tyler Mahle moving up to pitch on Sunday. All signs point to Gutierrez sticking around to take over the spot vacated by Hoffman’s absence for now – with his next start being set for Wednesday if the Reds follow through with that plan. Update: Gutierrez has been named the starting pitcher for Wednesday against Philadelphia.