On road back to Rox, Ottavino ready to throw

Reliever to begin program 16 weeks after undergoing Tommy John surgery

On road back to Rox, Ottavino ready to throw

DENVER -- Injured Rockies closer Adam Ottavino will become a little less a spectator in nine days, when he is finally allowed to begin a throwing program.

Ottavino, who became closer a week into the season after LaTroy Hawkins (now with the Blue Jays) struggled, threw 10 scoreless appearances covering 10 1/3 innings before suffering a right elbow injury that required season-ending Tommy John surgery. It's good news for Ottavino, who has been sorely missed from a bullpen that has the Majors' highest ERA (4.83) and batting average against (.274), as well as the most walks (162).

Ottavino hasn't been just sitting around watching the Rockies' bullpen struggle. He has been strength training, and lately he's been throwing a weighted ball against a trampoline. But being allowed to finally throw a baseball -- 16 weeks after surgery -- begins his work toward a return.

"The first month was the hardest part because you don't feel good and it's hard to get over that you can't play," said Ottavino, who turns 30 on Nov. 22. "Since then it's felt a little better. I've used the time to my advantage to work on other things, like my leg strength, and just used the time to improve my body and my mind -- really try to pay attention to the games and try to learn something. But it's really hard not to compete.

"I'm very comfortable with the belief that I'll be myself again and I'll help the team. It's tough to watch your friends struggle. I understand it's a hard game, so I pay attention to what they do when they're doing well and try to help them get back to that."

The plan is for Ottavino to build his arm strength before taking a break in December, then arrive in Scottsdale, Ariz., in January to prepare for the season and "see where I end up -- not really put a date on anything."

Outside of baseball, Ottavino is an accomplished photographer. But he hasn't done much of it this year.

"I didn't take advantage of that much because I didn't travel as much, so there weren't as many new things to see," he said. "I just kept my head down and worked in the training room, tried to still be a pro about things and not get too interested in other stuff."

Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb, and like his Facebook page. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.