NEW YORK — Adam Ottavino’s fine 2019 season began going a bit sideways by September.
After a rough game in which he balked home a run at Toronto, the Yankees’ reliever admitted something felt off.
Physically, he felt fine.
Confidence-wise, he was raring to go in any critical spot.
“I’m just not as sharp as I need to be right now,” Ottavino said at the time. “It’s not like a total disaster, but not as good as I’d like to be.”
Ottavino’s lapses bled into October, where he found himself on a shorter leash and in some earlier-than-normal spots.
All told, the right-hander with the signature slider pitched to a 5.79 ERA over his final 15 appearances last year – including postseason – yielding 14 hits and five walks in 9.1 innings.
He pitched in eight of the Yankees’ nine playoff games but tossed just 3.1 innings.
And in a departure from his use over 73 regular season games, 16 of the 21 batters he faced last October were right-handed hitters.
Naturally, the Yankees were trying to leverage situations as much as possible at a critical time.
Yet, it was another reminder that Ottavino didn’t look like the guy who posted a 1.90 ERA in his first Bronx season.
This offseason, Ottavino spent time tweaking parts of his delivery.
And this time, the New York native and Brooklyn resident used Yankee Stadium for his workouts.
During the previous two winters, Ottavino took the subway to Harlem and worked out in a vacant storefront owned by his father-in-law.
And after a big bounce back season with the playoff-bound Colorado Rockies in 2018 (2.43 ERA, 112 Ks, 77.2 IP, 75 games), Ottavino signed a three-year, $27 million free agent contract with the Yanks.
In brief work this spring, Ottavino, 34, looked sharp in his two scoreless Grapefruit League outings, striking out three batters without a walk before the exhibition season was halted due to the COVID-19 crisis.
During a recent YES Network interview, Ottavino said he’s been staying in shape, throwing in his backyard and “basically doing stuff that I usually do in the offseason, maybe with a little more intensity.
“I don’t want to lose too much of what I gained in spring.”
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