DENVER – For Colorado Rockies relief pitcher Adam Ottavino, 2017 has been the best of times and the worst of times.
After the club acquired Greg Holland this offseason, it became pretty clear that eventually, Ottavino would move into a set-up man role. The job description is pretty simple: Bridge the gap to the closer and keep the lead (or sometimes tie) intact going into the final frame of the game.
Ottavino has been the very best in all of baseball in this regard, leading MLB with 12 holds. So why did he tell BSN Denver that he is currently in the midst of one of this toughest stretches of pitching since entering the bullpen? Walks. Ottavino said after his most recent home outing against the Dodgers — where he gave up two hits, two runs, and a walk — it has been a long time since he struggled with his command like this.
“Not as a relief pitcher. As a starter, yeah,” he says. “I had some command problems earlier in my career. It’s just been a weird thing, I started off wild and then I righted the ship for a couple weeks. Felt like I was throwing the ball really well then I don’t know. The last couple just got away from me a little bit. Today I was able to get ahead of pretty much everybody but wasn’t able to put anybody away. It’s a little bit of one thing or the other thing right now. We still won so that’s the big thing.”
On the flip side, Otto’s signature fastball/slider combination remain incredibly difficult to square up. While he would certainly prefer a lower number, the 3.38 ERA shows both an ability to work out of trouble and the strength of the bullpen that has been able to pick him up at times.
“Yeah I think my stuff is fine,” he says. “Every game is different but today’s game it felt like they did a good job against me, really. I didn’t get [Enrique] Hernandez to swing at a pretty good breaking ball that I typically get. It’s kind of been a theme, taking close pitches and hitting the ones in the zone. Puig, too. I thought I threw him a decent 3-2 pitch. He was all over it. Just fighting right now, just fighting hard. Obviously, the walks are brutal. Haven’t experienced this before.”
Manager Bud Black says he thinks the veteran righty is close. He says he has seen “flashes” of the old dominant, nearly unhittable Ottavino. “I think the first-hitter walk has happened,” Black continued. “Otto self-admittedly — which I appreciate the tremendous self-evaluation of the base on balls — but I think if you string together his whole season you can see a little bit of the variables and that’s why over the long haul he’s going to be productive more so than not.”
Black pointed to games in Milwaukee and Arizona as examples of what he meant — the first of which saw Ottavino strike out the side after walking a pair, and the second saw him pitch two innings for the first time sine 2014 in a game that the Rockies won in extra innings.
“He’s been fine. But if you were to nitpick on one thing, it would be the initial batter and a few of the base on balls.”
And they are both right, it really hasn’t cost the team. The one game in which he did blow a save, the Rockies still one the game in extra innings. There is the chance Otto rights the ship before it ever got that far off course. Tuesday night in Minnesota he pitched his first perfect inning since April 30 in Arizona.
“I feel like, luckily I haven’t blown anything yet, haven’t taken any losses or anything. Guys have done a good job around me. I know that my best pitching is ahead of me this year. I still got four and a half months to be who I wanna be out there. It’s up to me to do it and that’s it.”