“It became very clear that Juan was not only a talented pitching coach, but one I feel very comfortable with in working with our pitching staff,” said Farrell. “I have known him for many years, and I have a high level of comfort with his in-game communication.”
Working with long-time pitching coach Don Cooper, he helped tutor a White Sox pitching staff that, over the past five years, posted the sixth-best ERA in the American League (4.08). The bullpen’s 3.88 ERA ranked fifth. The pitching staff also set club records in strikeouts each of the past three years.
In 2012, he oversaw a Chicago bullpen that included setup man Nate Jones, who went 8-0 with a 2.39 ERA, and closer Addison Reed, who tied for seventh in the AL with 29 saves. They were two of eight rookies in the Chicago bullpen (before September). The Sox’ pitching staff set a franchise mark with 1,246 strikeouts this past season, and the bullpen set a record with 479 strikeouts in 2011.
Before becoming the White Sox’ bullpen coach, Nieves was a pitching coach in Chicago’s system at Rookie-level Tucson (1999-2001), Double-A Birmingham (2002-04), and Triple-A Charlotte (2005-07).
In 2002, he was the pitching coach for the Southern League West Division All-Star Team, and in 2006 he served as the World Team pitching coach in the All-Star Futures Game in Pittsburgh.
Nieves, 47, began his coaching career in the Yankees organization, holding the positions of pitching coach with Rookie-level Tampa (1992), Short-A Oneonta (1993) and Single-A Greensboro (1994, 1996), and pitching coordinator with Double-A Norwich (1995). He served as the general manager/manager for Caguas in the Puerto Rican Winter League in 1998-99.
Signed by Milwaukee in 1983, Nieves became the first pitcher in Brewers history and first native of Puerto Rico to throw a no-hitter when he accomplished the feat at age 22 on April 15, 1987 against the Orioles in Baltimore. The left-hander compiled a 32-25 record with one save, a 4.71 ERA and 352 strikeouts in 94 games (81 starts) with Milwaukee from 1986-88. He set career-highs with 14 wins, 195.2 innings, and 163 strikeouts in 1987, when he ranked fifth in the American League with an average of 7.5 strikeouts per 9.0 innings pitched. He tied for fourth in the AL with three shutouts as a rookie in 1986.
Nieves is in Avon Old Farms High School’s Hall of Fame. He compiled a career record of 19-1 with a 1.05 ERA in three years at the school from 1980-83 and, in addition to baseball, captained the cross-country and basketball teams.