After two months of a deal reportedly being in place, Hector Olivera officially signed a six-year, $62.5 million contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers Tuesday. Olivera, 30, had been working out at the club’s Campo Las Palmas facility in the Dominican Republic as he waited to receive his visa to enter the United States.
Olivera was sent to Arizona, where he’s expected to train for one week before joining High-A Rancho Cucamonga and a move to Triple-A Oklahoma City will follow. “Three or four weeks to prepare myself, and I should be ready by then to play at the big-league level,” Olivera said on a conference call Tuesday night.
“Mentally, I’m very prepared. I know what it takes to be a Major-Leaguer. I also know the conditions of how many games are played in the big-league level, but I’m very prepared mentally. Physically, I’ve prepared myself very well at the Dodgers academy in the Dominican Republic. I just have to do some refining here at the [Spring Training] complex and in Minor-League games.”
While Olivera impressed in front of Dodgers executives and representatives from other teams, there were reports of a damaged UCL in his right elbow that may require Tommy John surgery. “I don’t know where that rumor came from,” Olivera said.
“I know that there was a little bit of inflammation in my arm, but a lot of people saw me tryout and I played well. It was just fatigue in the muscle.” The Dodgers included a clause in Olivera’s contract for a seventh year at $1 million should the Cuban native require the Tommy John procedure.
Friedman expressed confidence in Olivera’s health when asked about the rumored balky elbow. “He came through the medical exam with Dr. ElAttache very well,” Friedman said. “We feel good about where he is. Medically we did a very thorough review.”
Olivera said he chose to sign with the Dodgers ahead of four teams, mentioning the Atlanta Braves, Miami Marlins and San Francisco Giants among the list of serious suitors. He went on to describe a deciding factor was the presence of Cuban players already on the Dodgers’ roster, whom he spoke to.
“They informed me of a lot of things,” said Olivera. “I know it’s difficult to make that transition. The Major Leagues is the highest level of baseball there is in the world, and there has to be a lot of preparation and dedication to play at the major-league level.”
While Olivera factors into the Dodgers’ plans this season, what position he’ll play is somewhat unsettled. Third base has been considered the likelihood, though second base can’t be ruled out. Friedman said Olivera played second and third base at the Campo Las Palmas facility and the reviews at both positions were positive.
Where Olivera eventually winds up at isn’t a concern of his. “I’m here to play at whatever position they put me,” he said.
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