Ottavino gets big outs in win over Rays

Ottavino gets big outs in win over Rays

DENVER -- Rockies manager Walt Weiss said recently that he was ready to use right-hander Adam Ottavino in high-leverage situations, and Ottavino flourished in his first opportunity.

Coming in with one out and the tying run on second base, Ottavino threw a scoreless two-thirds of an inning in Monday's 7-4 win over the Rays.

"I'm about 90 percent," Ottavino said. "My stuff I feel like is just as good as ever. Obviously I've been behind in the count more than I'm used to being. To me, that's the biggest thing. Just behind in the count and giving them a shot."

Not only did Ottavino come in with a small lead for the first time this season, his final out came against a lefty. Coming into the game, lefties were hitting .311 against him in his career.

"A couple years ago, that was a bit of his Achilles' heel, but he's made some adjustments, especially right before he got hurt," Weiss said. "He feels much more confident against left-handers. Primarily, I'm using him against righties because he's lethal against righties -- always has been."

Since coming off Tommy John surgery, Ottavino has not allowed a run in five outings spanning three innings. He has struck out three, walked one, hit a batter, and allowed one hit.

Last season, Ottavino did not allow a run over 10 1/3 innings -- with 13 strikeouts and two walks -- as the team's closer before undergoing surgery on May 7.

"It's tough to match what he did last year before he got hurt," Weiss said. "He was untouchable. His velocity will get back there. It's not there quite yet, but it's plenty good enough. His slider is a wipeout pitch for him still. That's what keeps him out of trouble out there."

Ottavino said that he is happy with the movement on his slider, although he's still working on calibrating where to aim it. He's found it easier to figure out where to start the pitch when it breaks less in the thinner Denver air than when it breaks more at lower altitudes.

Once Ottavino irons out his slider and stays ahead in the count, he could earn more high-leverage situations and longer stints. Four of his outings so far this season have been against two or fewer batters, with his only full inning coming July 7 against Philadelphia.

"I think the way they're using me is OK," Ottavino said. "They're kind of picking their spots for me to get some big outs. That's fine. The full inning will come when the game dictates that. I'm not going to really worry about how many outs I'm getting, just try to get them when I can."

Ben Weinrib is a reporter for MLB.com based in Denver and covered the Rockies on Monday. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.