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Dodgers plan to develop Yaisel Sierra as a starting pitcher

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Sierra will begin his 2016 season in the minor leagues.

Photo: MLB.com

PHOENIX -- The Dodgers' latest Cuban import, Yaisel Sierra, is now officially on board, though he is not yet in camp. He is expected to arrive at Camelback Ranch on Monday or Tuesday.

The right-handed pitcher, who turns 25 on June 5, saw his six-year $30 million contract finalized earlier on Sunday. He has been mentioned by president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman as someone who could pitch in the Dodgers bullpen this season, and for good reason.

Senior vice president of baseball ops Josh Byrnes said Sierra's four-seam fastball is up to 97-98 mph, and his two-seam fastball is "explosive" at 91-93 mph, to go along with a good slider.

"I've seen video. I like his body, but I haven't seen a whole lot," manager Dave Roberts said. "I'm excited to get him here. He has an opportunity to make an impact."

But that impact will be down the road for Sierra, who still needs to get acclimated to a new camp with new teammates, not to mention the cultural adjustments of joining a new country.

"This is all new to him. He has not thrown off a mound yet, so he'll be a touch behind but not too far behind," Byrnes said. "We'll see how ready he is."

The plan is for Sierra to start the season in the minors, a plan with which he is said to be on board.

"He's got a lot of power in his arsenal, has a good delivery and we like his makeup. We have to keep developing him," Byrnes said. "He's fairly far along, but he's still got some room to grow."

Part of that growth is simply throwing strikes, something that plagued him in his final few years with Holguin in Cuba. In 2014, Sierra walked 31 batters in 62 innings, though nine were intentional. But he also hit seven batters and lead the league with 11 wild pitches even with his limited duty, while putting up a 6.10 ERA.

Byrnes chalked up part of that wildness to the many different arm angles used by Sierra in Cuba. Since defecting Siierra has streamlined his delivery, and the pitcher seen in showcases in the last few months was much different than the one in Cuba.

"Throwing strikes is essential, and he does not look like a guy who could have problems with it as we watched the last several months," Byrnes explained. "He knows that part of his history maybe is a function of a different style of pitching, but we're going to really emphasize throwing strikes."

The Dodgers also plan to develop Sierra as a starting pitcher, and he'll work on adding a changeup and also improving his control and command.

"A lot of guys you have that debate of starter or reliever, and it's nice to have a fallback," Byrnes said. "But we want to at least shoot for starter because there are enough ingredients in there that gives him a chance."