Ottavino set to pitch late in games

Estevez will remain closer, but Ottavino will take on bigger role

Ottavino set to pitch late in games

ATLANTA -- Rockies manager Walt Weiss has informed righty reliever Adam Ottavino that the re-entry period is over, and he will be used in increasingly high-leverage situations.

In Friday's 11-2 win over the Braves at Turner Field, Ottavino came on in relief of starter Jorge De La Rosa with a runner at first in the seventh and faced right-handed hitters Gordon Beckham, who walked, and Adonis Garcia, who grounded into a force. Weiss replaced Ottavino with Boone Logan, who worked a double-play grounder from Freddie Freeman.

"It's a fine line between putting too much on him this soon but also using him to help us win games," Weiss said. "He's there. He's at that point, but we still wanted to be careful. And having Boone has really been a luxury. He gets lefties out as well as anybody."

Ottavino was the Rockies' closer last April when he sustained a right elbow injury that required Tommy John surgery. He returned on July 5 and faced a total of eight hitters in three scoreless appearances (one hit, two strikeouts, no walks).

Weiss said rookie Carlos Estevez will remain the closer, but Ottavino will be taking on a greater role for a team that entered Friday seven games out of the National League Wild Card race but harboring playoff aspirations.

"We're in that territory; I talked to him yesterday," Weiss said. "I may start giving him more meaningful innings, higher-leverage situations."

Ottavino pitched 10 scoreless outings, took over as closer when LaTroy Hawkins struggled and earned three saves last year before the injury. The Rockies felt good enough about him that they signed him to a three-year, $10.4 million contract last offseason even though he was recovering from surgery and wouldn't be available until this month.

But Weiss said there is no timetable on moving him to the ninth inning, where Jake McGee pitched before a left knee injury and a slump, and Estevez has pitched.

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"I feel very comfortable with Carlos in that role -- 'Otto,' when he's at full strength -- I think he's a Major League closer," Weiss said. "I'm not worried about that right now. I want to get to the point where he's helping us win games, he's helping us protect leads, regardless what inning that is."

Ottavino's heightened role comes against a backdrop of the recent struggles of McGee (13.50 ERA in five outings since returning from the disabled list July 2 from a three-week absence) and Jason Motte (inconsistent fastball location, an arm slot and arm speed that has been giving away off-speed pitches and five homers yielded, 19 hits in 17 innings).

Thomas Harding has covered the Rockies since 2000, and for since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb, listen to podcasts and like his Facebook page. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.