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Adam Ottavino opens up about life after the Colorado Rockies

Patrick Lyons Avatar
August 29, 2022

Even though the St. Louis Cardinals had invested a lot into their 2006 first-round pick over six years, Adam Ottavino was unceremoniously cut loose like so many others trying to carve out a career.

Thankfully, the Colorado Rockies stepped in.

Ottavino was a starting pitcher at the time, taking the ball 126 times in the minors and another three with the Cards in 2010.

His role with the Rockies would be much different in 2012.

The conversion from starter to reliever is one that can take years. Otto, as he’s commonly known by friends, adjusted quickly after the Cardinals bet against him.

It’s now a decade that he’s pitched in the big leagues. He’s entered 579 games and thrown a total of 589 innings, seventh-most in all of baseball during that time.

No bad for a so-called failed starter.

Ottavino returned to Coors Field in May for the first time since leaving as a free agent following the 2018 season, and his time in Denver still means everything to the 36-year-old.

“It’s not just the games, but also my kids were little here, and I remember the year I was hurt, I spent the whole year here and didn’t really leave,” Otto said. “I was at this park every day rehabbing with (Rockies’ rehab coordinator Scott) Murayami over there. So there’s a lot of people that are like family to me over here. Honestly, it feels really comfortable to be here.”

If he had his druthers, he would have never left.

The 2017 season was fine, but a spotty September seemed to create doubts about Otto for the front office. He was even left off the NL Wild Card roster against the Arizona Diamondbacks. 

Had things gone differently down the stretch, the next few years for the franchise might have looked an awful lot different.

“That led to probably an extra reliever getting signed that offseason with (Jake) McGee, (Brian) Shaw and Wade (Davis),” he recollected. “Then I kind of knew they weren’t going to bring me back after I had a really good year in ‘18.”

Oct 6, 2020; San Diego, California, USA; New York Yankees relief pitcher Adam Ottavino (0) delivers a pitch in the 4th inning against the Tampa Bay Rays during game two of the 2020 ALDS at Petco Park. Mandatory Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

Since his last appearance with Colorado in Game 3 of the National League Division Series in 2018, he’s been with three teams. Including the New York Yankees.

“Once (returning) was out, my dream was to play on the Yankees,” the New York native shared. “As soon as they were interested, it was hard for me to even consider any other team. It was just something that had to happen.”

The three-year deal ended after year two when Ottavino was shipped to the rival Boston Red Sox ahead of the 2021 season.

He’s got another opportunity with New York. This time, it’s the NL East-leading Mets with the third-best record in all of MLB.

During the three wins over the Rockies this weekend at Citi Field, Ottavino recorded two saves, his first with the Metropolitans. 

Aug 27, 2022; New York City, New York, USA; New York Mets catcher Tomas Nido (3) congratulates relief pitcher Adam Ottavino (0) after he recorded a save in a 3-0 victory over the Colorado Rockies at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

So far, 2022 is turning out to be one of his best years of his career.

His 2.09 ERA could end up being the second-best mark for a full season, and his strikeout-to-walk ratio (4.36) is its highest since leaving Colorado.

That’s important if Ottavino is going to have his wish and pitch until 40. Especially if players half his age are trying to take up spots in the bullpen.

“The hard part is that the young guys are so good now, so the job security is not the same,” Otto confessed. “The health part of it is the other half of it. I feel like – knock on wood – I’ve done a good job of figuring a lot of that out and being able to post and be available. So I just focus on that and try to be better than I have been recently at fundamentals.”

Ottavino cites pitchers like Boston’s Rich Hill at 42 years old and Seattle’s Sergio Romo at 39 years old as examples of hope. They may not have the same stuff as in their prime, but they can still be effective.

His success with the Mets is also important if he’s going to avoid the boo-birds in Queens.

As someone who grew up in the Big Apple, Ottavino is attuned to the antipodal nature of fandom.

He understands fans in the Five Boroughs, saying, “It was really crazy. The fans kind of flipped on me quickly in Yankee Land. In ’19, I struggled in the playoffs, and they were already on the fence. And then I had one bad game in ’20 and they were out on me.”

Yet, nostalgia can be strange. Same with short-term memory. When there’s another game every day, it can have interesting effect on those on and off the field.

Such was true when Ottavino returned to the Bronx to play with the Red Sox.

Oct 22, 2021; Houston, Texas, USA; Boston Red Sox relief pitcher Adam Ottavino (0) reacts on the mound in the eighth inning against the Houston Astros during game six of the 2021 ALCS at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

“When we went to Yankee Stadium a bunch of times last year, it was kind of split in the middle,” Otto chuckled. “I would get half the fans telling me that they miss me and they wish I was still there. And the other half telling me that I couldn’t handle it and that it was a good thing I was out of there.”

Throughout the years, the Colorado Rockies have never left his heart.

One of his best friends, Scott Oberg, is still with the club.

Though thoracic outlet syndrome has seemingly ended the career of Oberg at 32-years-old, it hasn’t prevented him from following Ottavino’s.

“It would be easy for him to want to get away from baseball a little bit, but he still watches my games and is still a great friend in that way,” Otto said. “We hold out hope that maybe there’s something down the pike that’ll get him back on the mound. But I think if that’s it, he’s handling it really, really well.”

It’s hard to know what the future holds for any athlete, particularly a relief pitcher. 

Ottavino has shown enough this year to suggest another team would love to have him on a guaranteed deal next year.

If not, it wouldn’t be above him to accept a minor league invite and battle through Spring Training to make the Opening Day roster. 

Former Rockies’ pitcher Jamey Wright did that eight consecutive years before appearing in his last big league game at age 39.

Could the same fate also befit Ottavino on the precipice of age 40?

Don’t bet against him.

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