Otero gives Tribe reliable arm in bullpen

Otero gives Tribe reliable arm in bullpen

BOSTON -- There are such things as fluke seasons. After examining Dan Otero's performance last season, the Indians decided that was exactly what the reliever experienced, leading the Indians to acquire him via a trade in the offseason.

"I'm not saying it's bad luck or good luck," Indians pitching coach Mickey Callaway said, "but he did all the right things last year to have success. It just didn't happen for him. That's one of the reasons we wanted to get him. We knew it was going to come back around and even out."

So far, Otero has backed up that belief for the Tribe.

Otero has provided Cleveland with another solid relief arm, helping chew up some innings to reduce the workload for back-end arms like Cody Allen, Bryan Shaw and Zach McAllister. Heading into this weekend's series in Boston, Otero had a 1.20 ERA in 13 appearances, in which he struck out 11, walked three and held opposing hitters to a .224 batting average.

There has not been a drastic change in how Otero has pitched, though. The velocity on his various offerings is right in line with where it has been for the past few years. Last season, Otero had a 6.75 ERA in 41 games for the A's, but most of his peripheral numbers -- contact rate, ball-play rate and strike rate, among others -- were similar to his previous campaigns, along with this season. Otero's home-run rate (1.4 per nine innings in 2015, compared to 0.3 from 2012-14) is what stood out the most last year.

This year, Otero has ditched a cutter that he used mostly in the first half last year and has leaned more on his slider. The right-hander felt that throwing the cutter negatively impacted the release point for his sinker, so he ditched that offering completely for 2016. Perhaps that slight change can help explain his return to success, which includes an increase in ground-ball rate over last year.

Through Thursday, Otero had a 59.6-percent ground-ball rate, which was up from 48.5 percent in 2015. This season's showing to date is more in tune with his career rate (55.3 percent) as well. The right-hander's work this year is closer to what he did from 2013-14, when he had a 2.01 ERA in 105 games for Oakland.

"It's only been six weeks," Otero said. "You just forget about last year's results and just try to keep throwing the ball well. And the more you throw the ball well, at the end of the day, you'll end up getting good results. Last year was tough mentally, but I think it made me better. I'm using some of what I learned last year. ... I just think it's a mindset. I think last year I got caught up in guiding the ball a little bit.

"This year, I said, 'Forget it. I'm just going to throw it. I'm keeping my fingers on top of the ball and I'm thinking down in the zone.'"

Jordan Bastian has covered the Indians for MLB.com since 2011, and previously covered the Blue Jays from 2006-10. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.