Yankees: Interview With Reliever Adam Ottavino
By Matthew Orso
Yankees’ star reliever Adam Ottavino speaks with Yanks Go Yard about the upcoming 2020 season and a galaxy far, far, away.
Adam Ottavino is entering the second season of a three-year, $27 million deal with the Bronx Bombers. The 34-year-old coming off a career year in 2019, having posted a 1.90 ERA in 73 appearances and striking out 88 batters in 66.1 innings of work.
So how can you go up from there?
“My goals for 2020 are stay healthy for the whole year, have some less walks and less stolen bases against me,” Ottavino said.
Ottavino offered free passes to 40 batters in 66.1 innings last season — a rate of 5.4 walks per nine innings. Since the start of the 2010 season (Ottavino’s first in the majors), his career 4.0 walks per nine rate is 13th-worst in MLB (min. 450 IP) out of 293 pitchers who qualify.
In addition, 15 of the 16 stolen base attempts made while Ottavino was pitching last season were successful.
However, what makes the right-hander so devastating to opposing batters is his overpowering slider. Since the start of the 2018 season, hitters are batting just .155 against his slider. That’s the second-lowest batting average against the slider among relievers (min. 250 PA against the slider). Only Diego Castillo (.140) is better.
Additionally, Ottavino is working on new pitches and polishing others.
“I’ve been throwing a changeup all spring,” he said. “Who knows how much I’ll use it in the season, but I’ve been throwing it, trying to get comfortable with it. I’ve also been throwing my four-seamer again a little bit more. I’m not sure how much I’m going to use that either, but I’m trying to add a couple of weapons to the tool chest. You never know when you’re going to need them and maybe it’ll help me when we get to the playoffs again.”
According to BaseballSavant.com, Ottavino did not throw a changeup at all last season. Just 2% of his pitches were four-seam fastballs. He threw his slider the most often (44.2%).
So, as you can see, Ottavino has been working to improve himself since the end of last season. Major League Baseball has as well. They’ve adopted a new set of rules for the 2020 season, which includes a new extra innings mandate. A runner will be placed at second base at the start of each half inning.
Ottavino, though, has been critical of this new installation.
“I’ve already said I hate ‘em,” he stated. “I just think it’s not real baseball and I don’t want to take away the home-field advantage that teams have in extra innings. I think that’s like a big deal in baseball.”
The extra innings rule isn’t the only thing Ottavino has had to adjust to. We live in a COVID-19 world now. As such, baseball has had to adapt with social distancing, no fans, and more rules that govern players on and off the field.
“It’s been good,” he said. “I’m happy it got to be in New York so I didn’t have to go anywhere. I can stay safe where the numbers are low. I think we’ve done a good job. I think we’ll be ready for the season. The Yankees have done a really good job with it. So it’s crazy, but it’s getting started here soon.”
We are dealing with a COVID crisis, but there are distractions we can focus on. Did you know in addition to being a major league pitcher, Ottavino is an avid Star Wars fan? I had the honor of asking him Star Wars trivia on MLB Network prior to his signing with the Yankees in 2019. Since then, The Rise of Skywalker has been released into theaters.
“Episode 9, I thought it was ok,” Ottavino said about The Rise of Skywalker. “Unfortunately, I was already down on it before it even started. I kind of watched it and didn’t really give it a chance if I’m honest so I think I’m going to have to run that back on the DVR or something and give it another chance.”
At least he had a better take on the critically acclaimed Disney+ series, The Mandalorian.
“Loved it, felt like the original trilogy to me,” Ottavino said. “It had that grit to it. I thought the penultimate episode was unbelievable. So, I liked the pilot and the last two episodes the most, but overall I thought it was just a really great vibe. I really, really, really enjoyed it, going back to that world.”
Take away his unstoppable slider, and he’s just like us!
Adam Ottavino: Pitcher, Jedi, Yankee. The man can do it all.