Ottavino benefits from unusually flexible elbows

Ottavino benefits from unusually flexible elbows

DENVER -- Rockies closer Adam Ottavino has more going for him than a vaunted pitching arsenal. In addition to a fastball that touches 98 mph, a wipeout slider and a hard cutter, Ottavino has an unusual amount of flexibility in his elbows.

"Naturally in both my elbows, I have like five or six degrees of hyper-extension," said Ottavino, who then rotated his arms so the eyes of his elbows turned outward. "It's a gift and a curse. It's probably something that helps me stay healthy long term, throw some Gumby-weird pitches, but also at the same time, it's something that has to be maintained."

Ottavino entered Saturday 3-for-3 in save opportunities since he became the Rockies' closer April 14. He had worked 9 1/3 scoreless innings in nine games, while allowing two hits and one walk with 13 strikeouts and an opponents' average of .069.

Slight tightness in his lower right triceps made Ottavino unavailable Thursday, but he returned Friday and earned the save in the Rockies' 6-4 win over the Giants.

Ottavino said he does a lot of exercises for his triceps and biceps to keep the areas around his elbow more stable. The triceps tightness is something he typically experiences during a season, he said, although not necessarily this early.

Ottavino said his unusually flexible elbows "actually help me get a little more whip and get up and around certain breaking pitches better than a lot of guys. But it's also not always the best, because you've got to maintain a level of stability in there. And sometimes that's tricky."

Worth noting

•  Cleanup-hitting first baseman Justin Morneau, the reigning National League batting champion, entered Saturday's game hitting .250 with three doubles, one homer and three RBIs. His on-base percentage was .288 and his slugging percentage was .357

"My swing hasn't felt good yet," he said. "The last couple days, it's felt better. It's one of those things, I know it's going to come. ... I've been around long enough to know if you make consistent solid contact, eventually stuff's going to start falling in. I feel like I've hit a few balls that have been right at people or caught. It's just part of the cycle of the game."

• Infielder Rafael Ynoa had pinch-hit doubles on Thursday and Friday, the hit on the latter day putting the Rockies ahead, 5-4, in what became a 6-4 win over the Giants. With the Rockies carrying eight relievers, the switch-hitting Ynoa's presence and importance is magnified.

"When we do go with eight in the bullpen, we got a four-man bench," manager Walt Weiss said. "That versatility on the bench is critical. He can play multiple positions, switch-hit. Helps you stay away from unfavorable matchups late in a game when you're using a pinch-hitter. Runs well. Defends very well, so a double-switch is right in his wheelhouse, too. He's been valuable for us."

Ynoa entered Saturday 2-for-8 with one RBI as a pinch-hitter, and 4-for-15 overall with two RBIs in 12 games.

Jack Etkin is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.